PARMA, Ohio -Singer Bruce Springsteen and former President Bill Clinton rallied a crowd in this Cuyahoga County city today, urging a vote for President Obama to help carry Ohio in the Nov. 6 election.
Mr. Springsteen interspersed comments about President Obama with songs accompanied by himself on guitar and harmonica. Those songs included “Promised Land,” “Youngstown,” “No Surrender,” “We Take Care of Our Own,” and “This Land Is Your Land.”
The joint celebrity appearance follows by one day the appearance of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the neighboring city of Berea, Ohio, as the two presidential candidates battle for voter support in this battleground state.
Mr. Clinton and “The Boss,” as Mr. Springsteen is known to fans, cited the Obama administration’s 2009 bailout of the auto industry as reasons to support Mr. Obama’s re-election.
Mr. Clinton offered statistics to cast the seemingly struggling economy in a better light, such as that the banks are better capitalized than they’ve been in 20 years, and that the one-year drop in the jobless rate from 9 percent to 7.8 percent was the steepest one in 17 years. He accused Mr. Romney of refusing to disclose the details of his tax cut plan.
He said Republicans were counting on the Bureau of Labor Statistics keeping the jobless rate above 8 percent until after the election. It was reduced to 7.8 percent for September.
“When President Obama came into office the country is reeling, everybody needs work. He said let’s put America back to work. The Senate majority leader said, ‘No, my number one priority is putting you out of work, Mr. President,’” Mr. Clinton said. “They talked about the 8 percent as if it were Scripture - right up there with the tablets Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai. Then they said the whole thing was rigged.”
He said he doesn’t like the term bailout, preferring “restructuring” for the auto industry rescue.
“No banks would finance this, so the government came in and helped,” Mr. Clinton said. “All the other car companies supported this, because they know if General Motors and Chrysler went down the auto parts suppliers would go down and they would be left in the soup.”
He appealed to Ohio to reward President Obama for the auto rescue.
“I love Ohio, it’s an old-school place. When you were down and you were out, [and] your whole economy was threatened, the President had your back. You’ve got to have his back, too,” Mr. Clinton said.
The Romney campaign zeroed in on Mr. Clinton’s observation that the economy - which he blamed on Republican policies - is “not fixed.”
“Bill Clinton acknowledged the economy has not been fixed, and he’s right. That is a relevant point as to why we need to change direction, not continue along the same path with policies which hinder economic recovery,” said Christopher Maloney, Ohio spokesman for the Romney campaign.
“No amount of star power can obscure the fact that President Obama has made it more difficult for Ohio families to take care of their own,” Mr. Maloney said. “The president has refused to lay out a second-term agenda because Ohioans already understand what it will bring: more spending, increased debt and higher taxes.”
Mr. Springsteen said following Mr. Clinton on stage was “like I’m going on after Elvis here.”
“I was frantically calling the E Street Band and saying, quick I need back-up. Human speech has been monopolized. If he’d have brought the saxophone you’d have seen a real jam up here.”
He said Mr. Obama was facing “economic chaos” when he started his term but is sticking to an agenda that he said benefited working class people and protected women’s right to have an abortion.
The 63-year-old New Jersey troubadour waxed poetic in describing his feelings about President Obama, and touched on just about every progressive topic, including women’s rights, disparities in wealth, regulating Wall Street, and enacting universal health care.
“For 30 years I’ve been writing about the distance between the American dream and American reality and gauging that distance has driven a big part of my life,” he said. “Our vote is one of the principal ways we get to determine that distance and that equation.”
He recalled President Obama’s election night as “an evening when you could feel the locked doors of the past finally being blown open to new possibilities.” But he said change has been slow in coming.
“The future is rarely a tide rushing in. It’s more 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,” Mr. Springsteen said.
He jokingly linked the auto rescue and the heavy reliance on automobiles in his songs when he said, “I’m thankful GM’s still making cars. What else would I write about? I’d have no job without that.”
This was Mr. Springsteen’s first campaign appearance for President Obama in this election, and his first in Ohio. After today, Mr. Springsteen was on to Ames, Iowa, and Mr. Clinton appears in Wintersville, Ohio, near Steubenville.
Vice President Joe Biden is to campaign in Toledo on Tuesday, as part of three days of visits to Ohio next week, while Congressman Ryan is set to appear Saturday in Belmont, Ohio, near Steubenville.
Mr. Springsteen campaigned for then-Senator Obama in Cleveland in 2008. Mr. Obama carried Ohio by about 262,000 votes, or 51.5 to 47 percent against Republican John McCain. Political observers are predicting an even closer finish in Ohio this year in Mr. Obama’s re-election bid against Mr. Romney.
Parma, a suburb of Cleveland, is Ohio’s 7th largest city, with about 81,000 residents. Mr. Obama campaigned here in July, as part of a three-day bus tour of northern Ohio that began in Maumee.
Parma and Berea are predominantly Democratic, but more politically balanced than Cuyahoga County overall. The county voted for President Obama 68 percent to 30 percent for Senator McCain, while Berea and Parma together favored Mr. Obama over Mr. McCain 56-40 percent.
Contact Tom Troy at email@example.com or 419-724-6058.