Stellar duo target Ohio’s working class for Obama

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PARMA, OHIO (AP) - Lest anyone forget the importance of Ohio’s white, working-class voters, President Barack Obama sent a clear reminder on Thursday.

Make that two reminders: Bill (Clinton) and The Boss (Bruce Springsteen), two aging baby boomers still at the top of their game.

“No retreat, believe me, no surrender,” Springsteen sang, performing without the backing of his E Street Band in a darkened gymnasium lit by a spotlight. The lyrics seemed aimed both at the president and his supporters.

With less than three weeks until Election Day, Clinton and Springsteen took the stage to rally support for Obama among the critical middle-class voting bloc in this tightly contested Midwestern swing state.

“For 30 years, I’ve been writing about the divide between the American dream and the American reality,” Springsteen said. “Our vote is the one principal way we get to determine that distance.”

Clinton implored voters to reward Obama for bailing out the auto industry, which has deep roots in Ohio.

“When you were down, you were out, and your whole economy was threatened, the president had your back,” said the former president and a top surrogate for Obama.

Ohio is at the center of both Obama and Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign strategies. Winning the state would put Obama on the brink of the 270 Electoral College votes required to win the White House. Romney, who has fewer pathways to victory than the president, almost certainly needs Ohio’s 18 electoral votes if he hopes to claim victory.

Both campaigns are paying special attention to Ohio’s working class _ many of whom are white and don’t have a college degree. They’ve made up about half of voters in the state in each of the last two presidential elections.

And they were well-represented among the 3,000 people packed into a community college gymnasium for the Clinton-Springsteen appearance.

“I think Clinton is key,” said firefighter Matt Sparling of Parma Heights, Ohio. “He’s got an amazing way of keeping it simple.” Springsteen, he added, helps draw the crowd.

As Ohio officials opened the event, some in the crowd bellowed “Bruuuuce” _ a standard fan shout-out to the musical legend.

Clinton, too, reveled in the chance to serve as Springsteen’s opening act.

“I am qualified because I was born in the U.S.A. and unlike one of the candidates for president, I keep all my money here,” Clinton said, referring both to one of the rocker’s classic songs and Romney’s overseas financial holdings.

Polls show Obama with a lead in Ohio, but Romney has made gains following his strong performance at the first presidential debate.

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