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In Ohio, Bill Clinton Opens For 'The Boss'


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm David Greene.

There are some sure signs that a presidential election is fast approaching: Get out the vote rallies take on a new urgency and the really big names show up. That was all on display yesterday in Parma, Ohio, where Bill Clinton and Bruce Springsteen were the co-headliners. NPR's Don Gonyea was there.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The setting was a field house at a community college. The crowd of 3,000 erupted when President Clinton appeared first, beaming and saying he'd had a lot of jobs in his day.


PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: But this is the first time in my life I ever got to be the warm-up act for Bruce Springsteen.

GONYEA: This is northeast Ohio, a Democratic stronghold, a place where a big turnout is critical for Mr. Obama. The former president said Ohio is coming back. He highlighted the rescue of GM and Chrysler.


CLINTON: I love Ohio. It's an old-school place. We like our families. We like our communities. We value personal loyalty. When you were down, you were out and your whole economy was threatened, the president had your back. You've got to have his back now.

GONYEA: The warm-up act eventually yielded the stage.


CLINTON: The incomparable Bruce Springsteen. Let's hear it for him.

GONYEA: The two embraced. Springsteen laughed.


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Yeah, I get to speak after President Clinton. It's like I'm going on after Elvis, here.

GONYEA: Springsteen played solo with acoustic guitar and harmonica.


SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) No retreat, baby, no surrender.

GONYEA: And he unveiled what he called a campaign song reject.


SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Kissed your sister, then I kissed your momma.

CROWD: Forward.

SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Usually this time of day, I'm in my pajamas.

CROWD: Forward.

SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Let's vote for the man who got Osama.

CROWD: Forward.

SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Forward, and away we go. It's not so bad.

GONYEA: More seriously, though, Springsteen looked back at election night four years ago.


SPRINGSTEEN: And I'm here today because I've lived long enough to know that despite those galvanizing moment in history, the future is rarely a tide rushing in. It's often a slow march, inch by inch, day after long day. And I believe we are in the midst of those long days right now. And I'm here because I believe President Obama feels those days in his bones, for all 100 percent of us.

GONYEA: And he said voting matters.


SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Well, the dogs on Main Street howl, because they understand, if I can take one moment into my hands. Mister, I ain't a boy, no, I'm a man. And I believe in a promised land. And I believe...

GONYEA: As the crowd filed out, they were encouraged to sign up to volunteer. Marleis Gibson says she's a 54-year-old Democrat, realtor and bus driver.

MARLEIS GIBSON: You know, when I saw Clinton speak at the convention, I went right to my local place and volunteered and went and got my sign and whatnot. So, yeah. And I think it galvanizes you to, you know, drive people to - if they need help to get to vote on voting day.

GONYEA: She said this event makes her want to do more. Springsteen and Clinton split up after Parma. The former president headed to Wintersville, Ohio; Springsteen to Ames, Iowa.


SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Oh, oh, come take my hand. We're riding down tonight to case the promised land. Oh, oh, Thunder Road, oh, Thunder Road, Thunder Road.

GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, Parma, Ohio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.

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