President Obama's campaign rolled out two rock stars Thursday in the crucial swing state of Ohio, and only one is best known for his music.
The campaign teamed former president Bill Clinton and rock legend Bruce Springsteen for a rally at Cuyahoga Community College outside Cleveland.
The standing-room-only event inside a packed field house -- 3,000 mostly young people, 700 more in an overflow area -- wasn't the only use of such star power by Obama. Clinton went on to an event in Ohio's coal country on the West Virginia border; Springsteen traveled to Iowa.
The race between Obama and Mitt Romney may be close in public opinion polls, fundraising, TV ads and grass-roots campaigning. But when it comes to star power -- political and otherwise -- Obama appears to have the upper hand. For starters, there is Clinton, who can excite a crowd and explain often complex policy in understandable terms. He did it for nearly an hour at the Democratic convention in Charlotte last month, and he's continued his efforts on Obama's behalf in several swing states since.
"The president had your back. You've got to have his back now," he said Thursday. Noting the economy has improved, he said, "It's not fixed. The question is, which path will fix it."
Clinton called Romney's performance in this week's second debate one of evasion on issues ranging from taxes to equal pay for women.
"He wants to convince the moderate voters that he's a new man, without explicitly disavowing a single, solitary commitment he made in the two years he said he was the 'severe conservative' Mitt Romney," Clinton said. "You have to say no to all this hide-and-seek stuff."
For Springsteen, it was his first event for Obama since 2008, when he was an enthusiastic supporter. The campaign uses a lengthy list of other surrogates from the worlds of music, theater and sports and says it has held more than 6,000 such events this year, including more than 60 concerts.
Romney's campaign uses its share of politicians and entertainers on the road, too. On Wednesday, it rolled out former Saturday Night Live comedian Dennis Miller and country music star Lee Greenwood for events in Virginia.
Romney himself acknowledges his party has nothing to balance the Clinton effect on Democrats.
"If there's one thing we've learned in this election season it is that a few words from Bill Clinton can do a man a lot of good," Romney quipped after the Democratic convention last month during an appearance at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.
Clinton has done fundraising appeals for Obama, has appeared in heavily used TV ads and has cut online videos. But Thursday brought something new for the former president: "This is the first time in my life I ever got to be the warm-up act for Bruce Springsteen," he said.
"It's like I'm going on after Elvis here," Springsteen said before beginning a 38-minute solo set with No Surrender. "If he'd only brought that saxophone," quipped the guitar-and-harmonica-equipped musician.
The Boss earlier had planned to stay out of this year's race; Thursday was his first campaign event of 2012. He played his song We Take Care of Our Own, which is a mainstay on the Obama campaign's playlist.
He applauded Obama's efforts to fix the economy, expand health care and shore up financial regulations.
"The future is rarely a tide rushing in. It's often a slow march, inch by inch, day after long day," he said. "President Obama feels those days in his bones."
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