When the going gets tough in U.S. presidential elections, New Jersey rockers get going.
Bruce Springsteen is set to make campaign appearances in Ohio and Iowa on Thursday in support of President Obama.
The appearances follow the participation of Jon Bon Jovi, a member of the White House Council for Community Solutions, in several campaign events this season, including a big fundraiser Oct. 7 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, where actor George Clooney and musicians Stevie Wonder and Katy Perry also appeared.
The Springsteen stumps in Ohio and Iowa are seen as significant in two pivotal states.
“Bruce has gravitas in this area (of the country) because of his work,” said Jerry Zolten, an associate professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State. “His endorsement carries a lot more weight than other movie stars or rock ‘n’ roll acts. Take a (Springsteen) tune like Youngstown, and you’re bringing in a man who recognizes the dynamics of Youngstown with a candidate whose views he endorses, and you have a real power speaking there.”
Springsteen’s Youngstown, from his 1995 album The Ghost of Tom Joad, illuminates the loss of manufacturing jobs in the Ohio city of the same name.
“Bruce Springsteen’s values echo what the president and vice president stand for: hard work, fairness, integrity,” said Jim Messina, Obama-Biden campaign manager, in a statement posted on brucespringsteen.net. “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 appear Thursday at Iowa State University in Ames. That same day he also will be in Parma, Ohio, at Cuyahoga Community College. Former president Bill Clinton will also appear with Springsteen in Ohio. Obama is not expected to attend.
“My sense is that you know it’s tough to make any inroads with the unconverted at this moment in time,” Zolten said. “But there are enough of the electorate who are for Obama who may not be motivated enough to get out and vote — that’s where the strength of a Springsteen endorsement comes in. I don’t think (Springsteen will) change the mind of anyone not voting for Obama.”
Springsteen performed at several high-profile events for the Obama campaign in 2008, including a rally on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia that drew 50,000 attendees. Springsteen led the 2004 Vote for Change tour in support of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
There were signs that Springsteen would stay on the sidelines this year.
“I’m not a professional campaigner, and every four years I don’t think that I’m going to go and pick a guy and go after him,” said Springsteen at a news conference in Paris in February.
In September, the Obama campaign picked Springsteen’s We Take Care of Our Own to close out the Democratic National Convention.
Bon Jovi has been active in lower-profile events in support of the Obama campaign.
In addition to the Los Angeles event, he has appeared in Iowa (twice), Las Vegas and Colorado.
Springsteen and Bon Jovi are among a group of celebrities, including Morgan Freeman, Rosie Perez, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Eva Longoria and Jay-Z, who have publicly expressed their support for Obama.
Clint Eastwood, who used an empty chair as a prop to represent Obama at the GOP convention, Jon Voight and Stacey Dash have publicly supported Mitt Romney.
“We live in a time where celebrities are coming forward to make their views known,” Zolten said. “The candidates could face a tremendous backlash. Just because you’re a celebrity doesn’t mean people want to hear your opinion.”