MADISON, Wis. -

President Barack Obama tried to turn the conversation to the importance of early and absentee voting before a friendly crowd of 30,000 on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

The crowd waited for hours Thursday in periodic rain showers and dropping temperatures to cheer Obama during his 22-minute speech that touched on key campaign themes of funding education, creating jobs and pushing for tax fairness.

Obama encouraged listeners to take advantage of in-person early voting that starts in Wisconsin on Oct. 22 and runs through Nov. 2. Absentee ballots are also available and must be mailed back before Election Day.

Four years ago, when Obama carried Wisconsin by 14 points, one in five ballots was cast before Election Day.