An apparently jealous man on Monday warned President Obama to stay away from his fiancée.
No, we are not making this up. It is actual news. Mr. Obama was casting his vote early at a Chicago polling station (more on that later) when a local man named Mike Jones walked by and said, “Mr. President, don’t touch my girlfriend.”
He was kidding, we think. CNN caught the whole thing on tape, so you can judge for yourself. Obama may have been surprised but he appeared take the warning with aplomb.
“I really wasn’t planning on it,” he replied, while continuing to mark off his ballot at the stand-up voting machine.
The woman in question, Aia Cooper was understandably mortified. She was voting next to Obama, which is why Mr. Jones got involved in the first place.
“I am sorry, please excuse him,” she said.
Obama said it was an example of “a brother just embarrassing me for no reason.” Then he went into a riff in which he predicted what Ms. Cooper would say when she went home and told her friends and family about the incident.
“ ‘I can’t believe Mike, he’s such a fool,’ ” Obama said Cooper would say.
“ ‘Fortunately, the president was nice about it,’ ” he said, imitating Cooper.
At the end Obama went up to her and said that given what had gone on they had to give folks something to talk about, and kissed her on the cheek.
The president was probably pretty pleased with how this went down. So pleased, in fact, we had a brief moment of thinking the whole thing was a pre-planned act. (We doubt it; conspiracies are much harder to pull off than Oliver Stone believes.)
This is not because it seemed kind of cute but because of a crucial aspect of the whole video: everybody in it is voting. Already! Election Day is not until Nov. 4, remember. But early voting is now allowed in 34 states and the District of Columbia.
Democrats are desperately trying to increase turnout among Democratic-leaning constituencies, such as African-Americans, to counteract Republican enthusiasm. Encouraging early voting has been one of their main turnout tools. A viral video of the president casting a ballot can only help these efforts.
The GOP has responded in kind with an early voting effort, establishing a sort of race between the parties to see how fast each can get its partisans to the polls.
“The success or failure of each party’s efforts to get voters to the polls early will determine the outcome of critical contests across the nation, including the battle for control of the Senate,” wrote Reid Wilson yesterday in The Washington Post.
And early returns show early turnout is heavy. As of Oct. 21, over 2.6 million voters had already cast mid-term ballots, according to the United States Election Project.
It’s not clear yet if either party has an edge here. But if Obama’s banter about jealous boyfriends makes even a handful of Democrats get to the polls early rather than not vote at all the party will count itself fortunate.