President Barack Obama returned home Friday to cast an early ballot during a fundraising weekend aimed at urging "cheerful givers" to help retain Democratic control of the White House and retake control of the Congress and his former Senate seat.
"Hello, everybody, good to see you," he told about a dozen poll workers at the Chicago Board of Election's early-voting site in an unadvertised midafternoon stop to the basement of 69 W. Washington St.
"What's my date of birth? 8/4/81?" he asked one worker who promptly replied, "Nice try."
"I was just shaving a couple of decades off," he said. When asked by reporters whom he was voting for, Obama just smiled.
The early-voting stop was an interlude between fundraising stops in Chicago on Friday that launched a homecoming weekend for the president. He has no scheduled events Saturday and has a fundraising event for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Duckworth on Sunday before returning to Washington.
During a high-dollar fundraising event held at the North Side home of Democratic megadonor Fred Eychaner and featuring Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, Obama told the approximately 50 people attending that a Democratic takeover of the Republican-controlled House on Nov. 8 might be achievable.
"It's an uphill battle, Nancy is the first to acknowledge it, because of gerrymandering, because of population distribution, because during midterms we tend to have really depressed voter turnout," Obama said.
"But despite all that, we have incredible candidates, competitive races and if we are able and willing to really bear down in this last month — if we are, as we say in church, cheerful givers — then I think we've got a real shot. And that will make all the difference in the world in terms of our ability to advance those elements of my agenda that we haven't been able to get done," he said.
Obama later attended a closed-door fundraiser at the Near North Side home of longtime Democratic donor and businessman J.B. Pritzker to benefit the Democratic National Committee and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
At the earlier fundraiser at Eychaner's home, Obama spoke in confident tones about a Clinton victory and, despite showing no hesitation to do so in the past, did not disparage the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.
"I'm not going to spend a lot of time on Trump," Obama said, acknowledging that "to some degree, I'm preaching to the choir, here. But in case you hadn't noticed, the stakes in this election are extraordinary."
Instead, Obama said, "I'm confident that we will have an incredibly capable Democratic successor in the White House by the name of Hillary Rodham Clinton. And when I say I'm confident, I'm not overconfident. So we've still got a lot of work to do and nobody knows that more than she does."
Even with a Clinton win, Obama said, "The ability to build on the legacy that we've established these past eight years is going to depend on, ultimately, what happens in the House as well as our ability to take back the Senate."
That is one of the aims of Obama's trip home, lending a hand to help Duckworth, a two-term congresswoman from Hoffman Estates, who is challenging first-term Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk.
Kirk won the seat in 2010, defeating Obama protege Alexi Giannoulias in a close race for the president's former Senate seat.
This year, however, Kirk faces a traditional Democratic vote push in Illinois' presidential elections, which is partly why he is seen as the most vulnerable Republican seeking re-election nationally.
Democrats need to pick up four seats from Republicans to take control of the Senate if Clinton wins the White House, and five seats if Trump becomes president.
Obama's fundraising help for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also could help in Illinois. The president cited Raja Krishnamoorthi, who is seeking to replace Duckworth in the northwest and west suburban 8th Congressional District, as an "incredibly smart" volunteer who did policy work on the president's Senate campaign.
Also attending was former Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield, who is trying to win his seat back against Republican Rep. Bob Dold of Kenilworth. Other Democratic House members at the event included Reps. Janice Schakowsky of Evanston, Bill Foster of Naperville, Robin Kelly of Matteson and Cheri Bustos of East Moline.
Also attending was Kim Foxx, the Democratic nominee for Cook County state's attorney.
"Across the board, whatever your issue, the stakes could not be higher and I hope that all of you feel that same sense of urgency," Obama said.
After Obama landed at O'Hare International Airport, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's first chief of staff, shared a lift with the president aboard Marine One to the helicopter landing zone in a Soldier Field parking lot. Also along for the ride was North Side and near west suburban Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley.
Late Friday, Obama met with supporters of the foundation that is building his library and museum on the South Side.