COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Someone has to introduce the president.
On Monday, the final day of the presidential campaign, President Barack Obama, however, didn’t bring along an opening act. He brought along two main acts.
Bruce Springsteen. Jay-Z. Theirs wasn’t an introduction, it was pop culture moment.
The Boss was spending the entire day with Obama, traveling on Air Force One from Madison, Wis., to Columbus, Ohio, and then to Des Moines, Iowa, where Obama planned a coda for his campaign, a finale where his run for the presidency began five years ago.
Jay-Z boomed his way into Columbus’s Nationwide Arena, performing a rendition of his hit “99 Problems” with a political twist for a crowd estimated by fire officials at more than 15,000 people. He changed a key R-rated word to make his own political endorsement. “I got 99 problems but Mitt ain’t one,” he sang.
“They tell the story of what our country is,” Obama said of the two performers, “but also of what it should be and what it can be.”
Springsteen added a whole new sense of vigor, even giddiness, to the Obama entourage, with many of the president’s aides and advisers clearly star-struck by the rocker’s presence.
Springsteen, in jeans, black boots, a work shirt, vest and leather jacket, was not wearing the typical Air Force One attire. But the Obama camp has left formality aside; many aides are growing beards through Election Day and ties have been left behind in favor of sweaters for the chilly outdoor events during the last hours of the campaign.
Asked if there was any downside to using celebrity glitz instead of substance to drive voters to the polls in the final days, Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki laughed. “I think Bruce Springsteen might be offended by you calling him glitzy,” she said.
“Bruce Springsteen, and some other celebrities who have been helping us, reach a broad audience that sometimes tune out what’s being said by politicians,” she said.
As Psaki spoke to reporters at the back of the plane, Obama was up front and on the phone with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie discussing the recovery from Superstorm Sandy. Christie, who says he has attended more than 100 Springsteen concerts, said Obama then handed the phone to Springsteen, a New Jersey native whose songs often have been tributes to his youth in the state.
Upon landing in Columbus, Springsteen told a reporter that it was his first trip on Air Force One. Grinning, he said, “It was pretty cool.” As for New Jersey, he said, “I’m feeling pretty hopeful” that the state’s hard-hit shore will recover.
In Madison and Columbus, Springsteen serenaded audiences with renditions of top anthems “No Surrender,” ”Promised Land” and “Land of Hope and Dreams.” But he also has a custom-made campaign song named after the Obama motto “Forward” — which he acknowledged was “not the best I’ve ever written.”
“How many things rhyme with Obama?” he asked.
Obama, no doubt, didn’t mind.
“I’m going to be fine with Bruce Springsteen on the last day that I’ll ever campaign,” he said above the din of the crowd.
“That’s not a bad way to bring it home. With The Boss. With The Boss.”
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