PARMA: If any doubt remained about how central the state of Ohio is to President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, the sight of Bruce Springsteen and former President Bill Clinton on stage at Cuyahoga Community College on Thursday made it clear.
“This is the first time in my life I ever got to be the warm-up act for Bruce Springsteen,” Clinton told 3,000 cheering Obama supporters packed into a gymnasium. “I am qualified, because I was born in the U.S.A. — and unlike one of the candidates for president, I keep all my money here.”
With the Nov. 6 election less than three weeks away, Obama’s campaign deployed two of its biggest star surrogates to this white working-class suburb of Cleveland, where both took shots at Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Springsteen, who sang solo and played acoustic guitar and harmonica, took a more poetic approach than Clinton, calling Romney “our honorable opponent” even as he skewered him as a man who would favor the wealthy.
After opening a seven-song set with No Surrender, Springsteen said his appearance for Obama grew out of his three decades of writing songs “about the distance between the American dream and American reality.”
“I’ve seen it from inside and outside — as a blue-collar kid from a working-class home in New Jersey, where my parents struggled, not always successfully, to make ends meet,” he said.
Springsteen recalled the night of Obama’s election in 2008 as “an evening when you can feel the locked doors of the past finally being blown open to new possibilities.
“But then — then comes a hard daily struggle to make those possibilities real in a world that is brutally resistant to change,” he said.
After paying tribute to Obama for the auto industry’s recovery (“I’m thankful GM is still making cars. What else would I write about? I’d have no job without that”), the rock star said he feared Romney would widen the disparity between the rich and “everyday citizens.”
“I’m here today because I’ve lived long enough to know that despite those galvanizing moments in history, the future is rarely a tide rushing in,” Springsteen said. “It’s often a slow march, inch by inch, day after long day, and I believe we are in the midst of those long days right now. And I’m here today because I believe President Obama feels those days in his bones, for all the 100 percent of us.”
With that, Springsteen began strumming his guitar and singing Promised Land. He went on to perform Youngstown, We Take Care of Our Own, This Land is Your Land and Thunder Road, along with a new call-and-response tune that he wrote based on Obama’s campaign slogan, Forward.
The singer’s support was not a surprise — after backing Democrat John Kerry in 2004, he endorsed Obama in 2008 and sang at the Lincoln Memorial during Obama’s inaugural celebration. But earlier this year, he told the New Yorker that while he supported Obama he did not feel compelled to be a visible part of each presidential campaign.