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Barack Obama casts ballot in Chicago — 12 days early

CHICAGO -- Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to cast an early vote Thursday, delighting supporters on a quick trip to his hometown of Chicago, squeezed into a punishing eight-state campaign blitz.

Obama, who jokes with his crowds that he will not reveal who won his vote, then set course for a late night rally in Ohio, shaping up as the pivotal state in a tight race with Republican Mitt Romney, now just 12 days away.

In a slightly incongruous scene, Obama, possibly the most famous man in the world, returned to a neighborhood near his vacant home, in all the hullabaloo of a presidential motorcade and presented his ID for scrutiny.

Then he stood behind a touch screen machine to cast his vote, in a move designed to convince supporters to also go to the polls early, to help him build up a lead over Romney in a neck-and-neck race.

“All across the country, we are seeing a lot of early voting,” the president said, saying advance balloting freed voters from having to work out childcare or to take days off work on election day Nov. 6.

At a stop at a campaign office, he warned supporters: “If we let up and our voters don't turn out, we could lose this election. Now the good news is, if our voters do turn out, we will definitely win the election.”

The president's aides are privately signaling increasing confidence that he will prevail on Nov. 6. But Romney also sought to convince his supporters that he, not Obama, will spend the next four years in the White House.

“We want change, we want big change; we're ready,” Romney said in Ohio, stealing the president's mantra from four years ago and accusing the incumbent Democrat of waging a nasty, negative campaign drained of new ideas.

“The Obama campaign doesn't have a plan. The Obama campaign is slipping because he's talking about smaller and smaller things despite the fact that America has such huge challenges,” said Romney, 56.

Romney says that the sluggish economy is Obama's fault for not pursuing policies that will trigger swift growth while the president warns Americans have come too far out of recession to risk the progress with Republicans.

The closer the election gets, the more the bad feeling seems to show. In a Rolling Stone interview published Thursday Obama told the magazine's executive editor Eric Bates, that children had excellent political instincts.

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U.S. President Barack Obama casts his early ballot at the Martin Luther King Community Center in Chicago on Thursday, Oct. 25. (AFP)

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