Obama pursues votes of the working class

CLEVELAND -- At numerous rallies during the course of his 21-month race for president, Barack Obama has walked onstage to the Bruce Springsteen song "The Rising." On Sunday night here, he got the live version.

The Democratic nominee got a high-wattage endorsement from The Boss himself as Obama made a final push for the working-class voters who inspired many of the rock icon's songs.

"I've spent most of my life measuring the distance between the American dream and the American reality," Springsteen said, strumming on an acoustic guitar as he warmed up a crowd packed onto Cleveland's lakefront mall for a rally on a chilly autumn evening. "I believe Sen. Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and his own work."

Springsteen played a mini-concert for the throng estimated by police to be 80,000 while they waited for Obama. He then segued into The Rising, introducing "the next first family" as Obama came onstage with his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.

In the middle of Obama's speech, the skies opened with a cold rain, but neither the candidate nor the crowd appeared daunted. "Sunshine is coming!" Obama ad-libbed.

Obama is taking pains to rebut Republican John McCain's charges that his spending plans will require tax hikes. He said his plan will reduce taxes for 95% of earners "so that you can get onto iTunes and get the latest Bruce Springsteen tune."

Obama ended the race's last weekend in Ohio, a state that sealed President Bush's 2004 re-election — and, this year, handed Obama one of his most bitter disappointments of the primary campaign.

Weekend polls showed Obama leading McCain in Ohio, a sign Obama may reverse his loss in March primary to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as well as the Democrats' narrow losses here in 2000 and 2004.

In the morning, Obama told a crowd that police pegged at 60,000 on the west lawn of the Ohio statehouse in Columbus that he would do more for the middle class than McCain.

"The last thing we can afford is four more years of the stale, tired, old theory that says we should give more to billionaires and big corporations and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else," Obama said.

"Go vote right now," he urged the crowd to vote at a nearby polling place before it closed Sunday evening. "Do not delay because we have work to do."

In an unusual move that reflects the extent to which the unpopularity of the Bush administration is benefiting Obama, the Democrat's campaign released an ad publicizing Vice President Cheney's endorsement of McCain.

Obama quoted the vice president in his Columbus speech as saying he was "delighted" to back McCain.

"You've never seen Dick Cheney delighted before, but he is," Obama joked.

Along with Ohio on Sunday, Obama spent the weekend in states Republicans carried in 2000 and 2004. He spent Saturday in Nevada, Colorado and Missouri. On Monday, he plans stops in Jacksonville and Charlotte before his final appearance in Manassas, Va., in a state that hasn't backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.

After voting in Chicago on Tuesday morning, he'll make one last campaign stop in Indianapolis, the capital of another traditionally Republican state that Democrats are hoping to win.

By Election Day, it will have been a week since Obama last stumped in a state that the Democrats won in 2004: He appeared in Chester, Pa., on Oct. 28.