By Jonathan Easley - 10/18/12 03:59 PM EDT
The Obama campaign trotted out two of its biggest stars, former President Bill Clinton and legendary rocker Bruce Springsteen, at a rally in the hotly contested battleground state of Ohio on Thursday.
Clinton joked about being the “warm-up act” for Springsteen at the event in Parma, just outside of Cleveland.
“I was born in the U.S.A. and unlike one of the candidates, I keep all my money here,” Clinton quipped, referencing a Springsteen album and the Obama campaign’s attacks against Mitt Romney’s foreign bank accounts.
Obama has even joked about naming Clinton the "secretary of explaining stuff." With his glasses fixed on the end of his nose, Clinton was in his element in Ohio on Thursday.
Clinton noted the importance of the auto industry to Ohio, and said “the only person who pretended to know anything about [the auto bailout] who didn’t support it was Gov. Romney.”
“When you were down, when you were out, the president had your back,” Clinton said. “You got to have his back now.”
“This is not complicated for me,” he added. “If somebody saved my economy, I’d be for him."
Clinton excoriated Congressional Republicans, saying they had tried to keep unemployment above 8 percent for political gain and were “crushed” now that it had fallen to 7.8 percent.
The former president then introduced Springsteen as one of the most important musicians of the last 50 years, and “one of the coolest dudes I’ve met.”
“I get to speak after President Clinton,” Springsteen said, returning the compliment. “It’s like following Elvis.”
He then cut into the song “No Surrender” from his 1984 album Born in the U.S.A.
Springsteen, who campaigned vigorously for President Obama in 2008, had previously said he planned to sit the 2012 cycle out. But as Mitt Romney has surged in the polls, putting the president’s reelection prospects in doubt, Springsteen stepped in with an official Obama endorsement in a post on his website Thursday.
“There is a fight going on to help make this a fairer and more equitable nation,” he wrote. “For me, President Obama is our best choice to get us and keep us moving in the right direction. Right now, we need a President who has a vision that includes all of our citizens, not just some, whether they are our devastated poor, our pressured middle class, and yes, the wealthy too; whether they are male or female, black, white, brown, or yellow, straight or gay, civilian or military.”
“Right now, there is a choice going on in America, and I’m happy that we live in a country where we all participate in that process,” he continued. “That’s why I plan to be in Ohio and Iowa supporting the re-election of President Obama to lead our country for the next four years.”
Springsteen’s songs often depict hardship and the daily grind of small town, blue collar workers. He talked about how Obama is the candidate that will look after the interests of the working class on Thursday, and the Obama campaign is hopeful Springsteen’s message resonates with that demographic in a state that relies heavily on manufacturing.
"Bruce Springsteen's values echo what the President and Vice President stand for: hard work, fairness, integrity," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement. "His appearances will help with our get out the vote effort in these critical swing states and we are thrilled with his ongoing support."
Springsteen will continue on to Iowa, another critical swing state, while Clinton will move on to Steubenville, Ohio.
The campaigns are narrowing their focuses on the handful of battleground states that will be critical in determining the outcome of the 2012 election.
Ohio is chief among them — no Republican presidential candidate has ever lost the Buckeye State and gone on to win the election.
Obama now leads in Ohio, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, by 2.4 percentage points. Still, Romney has significantly closed the gap after trailing by 5.5 points earlier this month. The president has also focused intensely on Iowa, attending more than a dozen events in the Hawkeye State since August.
Updated at 1:05 p.m.