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Poll worker tells Obama as he votes early: ‘I need an ID’

President Barack Obamcasts his ballot during early voting while Chicago Ill. Thursday October 25 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

President Barack Obama casts his ballot during early voting while in Chicago, Ill., on Thursday, October 25, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 27, 2012 10:57AM

Just 12 days before the election and in the midst of a whirlwind campaign tour, President Barack Obama touched down on his home turf Thursday — and made history.

Obama returned to Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood and became the first president to vote early in person.

“I very much appreciate everybody here,” the president said at the early voting site. “It’s good to be home back in the neighborhood.”

But the most famous man in the world still had to prove who he was.

An early voting official looked at the president and smiled: “I need an I.D.”

That was met with laughter, including from Obama, who then joked about his license photo.

“Now ignore the fact that there’s no gray hair on that picture,” he told the election official who asked to see some identification. “I’m just glad I renewed my driver’s license.”

The Chicago stop was a rare one in the ever-tightening battle over the presidency that’s likely to come down to a few key swing states, including Ohio, Florida and Virginia. The president landed at O’Hare Airport at 3:24 p.m. He spotted Mayor Rahm Emanuel waiting on the tarmac, smiled and pointed to his former chief of staff.

The two hugged and spoke animatedly and then walked arm in arm to shake hands with bystanders.

Obama then boarded Marine One for the flight to Soldier Field, where it landed at 3:51 p.m.

The crowds in Chicago were eager to greet him.

Hundreds of people lined the streets as his motorcade worked its way through the city’s South Side.

The onlookers waved at the president’s motorcade and cheered “Woo! Obama!”

Later, Obama stopped at a nearby campaign office to thank local workers there. Outside the office, across the street from Kenwood Academy, a large crowd cheered for the president from behind a police barricade.

“We love you Barack!” one person shouted.

Inside, Obama thanked his local crew for their work and told them not to let up.

He walked in to thank workers who beamed upon his entering. He stopped to greet one volunteer, who smiled wide and said: “I hope somebody got a picture of me.” It smelled of coffee inside the storefront campaign office, and sweat was visible on the brow of one man inside.

“We just gotta work really hard over the next 12 days,” the president told them. “If our voters don’t turn out, we could lose this,” he said. “You are an integral part of the team.”

Suit coat off and wearing a tie and white dress shirt, Obama sat down and called a campaign worker in Iowa to say thank you.

“Hey Randy, this is Barack Obama,” he said over a cell phone, then thanked the volunteer.

The president cast his ballot for the Nov. 6 presidential election at about 4:20 p.m., at the Martin Luther King Community Center on the South Side, using a touch-screen machine.

“So this is the first time that a president has ever voted early,” Obama said. “That’s pretty exciting.”

The center is an Illinois early vote location in the 4th Ward that covers the Kenwood neighborhood, where the president has a home.

After casting his ballot, Obama touted the ease of early voting.

“For all of you who have not yet early voted, I just want everybody to see what an incredibly efficient process this was, thanks to the outstanding folks who are at this particular polling place,” the president said.

“Obviously folks in Illinois can take advantage of this. But all across the country we’re seeing a lot of early voting. It means you don’t have to figure out whether you need to take time off work, figure out how to pick up the kids and still cast a ballot. If something happens on Election Day you will have already taken care of it.

“If it’s bad weather you won’t get wet. Or in Chicago, snowy. But this was really convenient. I can’t tell you who I voted for. But I very much appreciate everybody here. It’s good to be home back in the neighborhood.”

“This is a major part of our on-the-ground program and focus, and we hope that having the president do this today will send a message to people across the country, in states where early vote is an option, that this is something they should do, too.”

The Obama campaign believes early voting is to the president’s advantage.

“More people will vote early this cycle than in 2008, and more of them will vote for President Obama in the states that will decide this election,” said Obama’s campaign press secretary Jen Psaki.

Public polls show Obama is winning the early vote in Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin by wide, double-digit margins, according to Psaki.

Earlier in the day, Obama spent some time in Virginia and Florida. He would end the day landing in Cleveland, Ohio.

“Now, you may have noticed that my voice sounds just a little hoarse,” he said earlier Thursday in Richmond, Va. “We are right in the middle of our 48-hour fly-around campaign extravaganza. We pulled an all-nighter last night. We just came from Florida. We were in Iowa and Colorado and Nevada before that. We’re heading up to Ohio later today. And I’m going to stop in my hometown of Chicago to vote.”

For his part, GOP nominee Mitt Romney spent the entire day campaigning in Ohio, a strong sign of how critical the candidates believe that state could be. Most polls have shown Obama having an edge in Ohio, however, recent polls also show that Romney, who once trailed with the female vote, has now closed the so-called gender gap.

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