PARMA, Ohio - Only Bruce Springsteen could turn former President Bill Clinton into the warm-up act.
The two rock stars -- one a political star and the other a real rocker -- shared the stage Thursday to whip up supporters at a rally for President Barack Obama in suburban Cleveland. While the president wasn't a part of the event, there was no shortage of enthusiasm.
"This election is coming down to the end," Clinton said. "It's pretty straight forward."
Obama deserves credit for keeping the nation from sliding into a depression and saving the auto industry that employs so many in Ohio, Clinton told a crowd of about 3,000 that didn't include another 700 who couldn't get inside a gymnasium at Cuyahoga Community College.
"When we were down the president had your back, you've got to have his back," Clinton said. "This is not complicated. If somebody saved my economy, I'd be for him."
With the presidential race zeroing in on Ohio and less than three weeks left before Election Day, Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are spending a lot of time in the prized swing state and counting on some big names to build up enthusiasm.
Romney already has brought country singers Jo Dee Messina and Rodney Atkins to the state where polls show Obama holding onto a slight lead.
Springsteen, making his debut on the 2012 campaign trail after vowing he wouldn't get involved, said he came to Ohio to support Obama because he implemented universal health care and cares about the rights of women.
"I'm thankful GM is still making cars," Springsteen said in between in a mix of songs that included a version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" and his own song, "Youngstown," a tribute to the working class in northeast Ohio.
He also played favorites "Thunder Road" and "We Take Care of Our Own."
The Boss took the stage after Clinton, and it was hard to figure out who the crowd came to see.
"It's the perfect mix," said Chris Vlcek, a hospital administrator who lives in the Cleveland suburb of Strongsville. He's an Obama supporter, but acknowledged there's less enthusiasm for him than four years ago and that it might take a bigger push to get people behind the president.
"I think Bill Clinton can have a strong influence," Vlcek said.
Both Springsteen and Clinton seemed to be a bit in awe of each other.
"It's like I'm going on after Elvis" joked the 63-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. "If he only brought that saxophone, you'd seen a real jam up here."
Springsteen posted on his website Wednesday that he is endorsing Obama's re-election because of the president's views on the rights of women and gays, ending the war in Iraq and tracking down Osama bin Laden.
"Voting matters, elections matters," he told the crowd during the six-song set. "Think of the events of the last 12 years and tell me it doesn't."
Clinton, who was speaking later in the day at a rally in Wintersville in eastern Ohio, said Romney is trying to convince moderate voters that he is a new man. But the former president said the Republican will stick with his conservative principles. He also blasted Romney for not providing a blueprint of his budget.
"He doesn't want you to think about him," Clinton said about Romney. "He wants you think that the economy is terrible and he's a jobs guy."
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