MADISON, Wis. -- Former President Bill Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama traveled across Wisconsin on Friday, as both Democrats and Republicans made a push to get supporters to the polls with the start of early in-person voting next week.
Republicans, including Sen. Ron Johnson, former U.S. Rep. Mark Green and national committee Chairman Reince Priebus, were on a bus tour through the state Friday and today with the same purpose.
From Green Bay to Milwaukee, Madison to La Crosse, Racine to Rhinelander and all places in between, Republicans and Democrats are hoping to get their supporters to the polls during the early voting period, which starts Monday and runs through
Nov. 2, the Friday before Election Day.
Michelle Obama, speaking to an overflow crowd of 2,500 in Racine, extolled people to vote early because the election will be tighter than in 2008. She also directed people to a website where they can get information about registering to vote and where to cast ballots early.
"And it could all come down to just a few battleground states like right here in Wisconsin," she said to applause. "This state could be decided by just a few thousand votes."
Election clerks across the state were preparing for long lines Monday.
"I just got a call about an hour ago from the Democratic Party telling me Monday morning at 8 o'clock you're going to have 50 people at the door," said Green Bay city clerk Kris Teske. "That sort of tells me something."
The early, in-person voting period is more than a week shorter this year. It's one of the changes the Republican-controlled Legislature made to the state's election laws. Another change, requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, has been overturned in court and is not in effect for the election.
In 2008, when Obama won Wisconsin by 14 points, one in five ballots were cast early or as absentee votes. Polls show a much tighter race this year, with Obama and Romney just about even with less than three weeks to go, making the fight over every vote even more important
Obama made a plea for early voting before a crowd of 30,000 on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus earlier this month. A videotaped message he recorded just before he took the stage at that event, urging people to vote early, was released Thursday by the Obama campaign.
Wisconsin hasn't voted for a Republican for president since 1984, but the GOP is hopeful it can build on GOP momentum that started with a string of victories in 2010.
Romney campaign spokesman Ben Sparks released statistics showing that requests for mail-in absentee ballots are way up this year in heavily Republican parts of Wisconsin, a sign that would be good for Romney. Sparks said Republicans have made 1.7 million voter contacts in the state.