Bruce Springsteen stepped out of the shadows on the edge of the campaign to join former president Bill Clinton at rally for President Obama today in Ohio, telling supporters America needs a leader "who has a vision that includes all our citizens, not just some."
"The forces of our opposition have been tireless," Springsteen said, before thanking Obama for health care reform, "a more regulated Wall Street," and the fact that "GM is still making cars."
"Without them, what would I write about?" he asked with a smile. "I'd have no job."
Springsteen sprinkled in six songs – one of them a cover of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" – to his remarks, starting with "No Surrender," which he dedicated to the president. He closed out the rally with the crowd favorite "Thunder Road."
He also played "We Take Care of Our Own," from his new album "Wrecking Ball," a mainstay on the official Obama campaign soundtrack familiar to reporters who have followed the president around the country the past six months.
The performance was an about-face for "The Boss," who had expressed frustration with the president's first-term policies during a February press conference in Paris, saying then "your better off keeping a certain distance from the seat of power."
But in a blog posted on his website Wednesday, Springsteen explained his reasoning for re-entering the campaign fray.
"For me, President Obama is our best choice because he has a vision of the United States as a place where we are all in this together," he wrote. "We're still living through very hard times but justice, equality and real freedom are not always a tide rushing in. They are more often a slow march, inch by inch, day after long day. I believe President Obama feels these days in his bones and has the strength to live them with us and to lead us to a country …where no one crowds you and no one goes it alone."
He repeated those words, almost verbatim, during his time on stage at the Parma, Ohio rally/concert he co-headlined with Clinton, who spoke for about a half-hour before introducing the rock hero.
"I am qualified, because I was 'born in the USA,' and unlike one of the candidates for president, I keep all of my money here," he added to laughter and applause from the partisan crowd. Clinton defended Obama's health care reform, noting it was backed by the American Association of Retired People (AARP), a group "not in the habit of sticking it to seniors."
Like in his convention speech, Clinton also questioned the "arithmetic" that underlies the Romney-Ryan tax plan. The Republican ticket has proposed an across-the-board 20 percent rate cut, with lost revenue being offset by the closing of loopholes they've yet to name.
"He thinks we're dumb," Clinton said. "He's hiding his budget and he's hiding his taxes, too." (Romney has released two years of returns and submitted an accountant's summary of his past tax record.)
Ryan Williams, a Romney campaign spokesman, responded to Clinton's comments – specifically one in which he conceded the economy was still struggling -- in an email.
"We agree with former President Bill Clinton. The economy has not been fixed under President Barack Obama… Mitt Romney believes we can do better by creating 12 million new jobs with higher take-home pay, cutting spending to put our nation on course for a balanced budget, and actually fixing our economy."
After 24 hours of bare-knuckle campaigning in the wake of the second presidential debate, the tone has softened today, with Springsteen jamming his way through his appeal and, earlier in the day, Ann Romney appearing on "The View."
Mrs. Romney addressed questions about her husband's stance on abortion rights, saying that while "he governed, while he ran, as a pro-choice," his position has changed over time and that he is now anti-abortion.
"I think we all have to understand that this is an issue that is so tender, and there are people on both sides of the issue that have, with very good conscience, with different opinions," she said.
Her son Josh was also on hand, and had a laugh at his brother Tagg's expense. The eldest Romney son, aged 42, joked Wednesday that wanted to "take a swing" at President Obama during the last debate
"That brother has slugged me a couple of times," Josh said. "I assure you, President Obama has nothing to worry about," adding that it can be upsetting seeing his father "get beat up."
Supporter, friends, and family can expect some more sharp words tonight, when both candidates speak at the annual Alfred E. Smith dinner in New York. The gathering, which honors the Catholic political pioneer and former Republican presidential hopeful, generally takes on the tone of a roast, though the jabs are usually more self-deprecating than aimed at political opponents.
"Contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger," then-candidate Obama said four years ago. "I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father Jor-El to save the planet Earth."