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Bruce Springsteen Backs Obama


Bruce Springsteen appears with his band on the NBC "Today" television program in New York's Rockefeller Center, in this Sept. 28, 2007, file photo. (Associated Press)

By Paul Kane
This time around Bruce Springsteen hopes he can deliver the Democratic presidential nominee to the "Promised Land."

In a letter posted on his web site today, the musician known by his fans as "Brrruuuuuucce" endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for president, siding with the first-term senator as "head and shoulders above the rest" -- an indirect put-down of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). Obama "has the depth, the reflectiveness, and the resilience to be our next President. He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit," Springsteen wrote.

The endorsement is not likely to have an instant impact on any voters -- Springsteen's home state of New Jersey gave Clinton a wide margin of victory on Super Tuesday -- but it is a symbolic win for Obama as he battles Clinton's accusations of being an "elitist" who doesn't understand white working class voters. While Springsteen's roots are firmly planted in the Garden State, his music evolved over the past three decades to focus intensely on tales of woe in small-town America, a place that Obama last week labeled "bitter" over being left behind by the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Springsteen, without mentioning Clinton by name, rejected her criticisms: "At the moment, critics have tried to diminish Senator Obama through the exaggeration of certain of his comments and relationships. While these matters are worthy of some discussion, they have been ripped out of the context and fabric of the man's life and vision, so well described in his excellent book, Dreams of My Father, often in order to distract us from discussing the real issues."

Springsteen, currently on tour with his E Street Band, will have one chance to make his Obama pitch directly to voters who still have a say in the nomination fight. His tour touches down in Charlotte and Greensboro April 27 and April 28, little more than a week before the key May 6 North Carolina primary.

Without having made a political donation this decade, Springsteen's imprimatur has become one of the most sought after among national Democrats. Former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) told reporters during his 2004 presidential bid that Springsteen's "Essential", a collection of greatest hits, was his favorite album. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), even before receiving his formal endorsement, took Springsteen's "No Surrender" song as his campaign anthem.

Springsteen eventually campaigned with Kerry in the final weeks of the 2004 campaign against Bush. He repeatedly performed his hard-charging "The Promised Land" anthem from the "Darkness on the Edge of Town" album, but Springsteen instead turned the number into slowed down acoustic tale of -- bitter? -- life in a small town:

I've done my best to live the right way
I get up every morning and go to work each day
But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold
Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode
Explode and tear this whole town apart
Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart
Find somebody itching for something to start...

But Springsteen's help -- including an Election Eve performance in Cleveland -- failed to boost Kerry in the decisive battleground of Ohio.

That hasn't stopped candidates from hoping for Springsteen's help. Without receiving his endorsement, Clinton took the stage after winning the critical states of Texas and Ohio to the blasting music of Springsteen's "The Rising" -- a metaphorical suggestion that her campaign was on the rise. (It should be noted, however, that the song is actually an ethereal tale of death and destruction for a New York City fire fighter on 9/11 rushing up the stares of the Twin Towers after the terrorist attacks.)

Interestingly, Obama has not made much of a play for the Springsteen fan in his campaign musical choices and aesthetics. He usually takes a stage on the campaign trail to U2's "Beautiful Day" or Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered."

If the endorsement adds up to nothing else, Springsteen's backing of Obama is a gut punch to the communications staff in Clinton's office. Howard Wolfson, her top communications adviser, is a devoted Springsteen fan who compiles an annual "best of" list for the year's best albums. His 2002 list included "The Rising." Phil Singer, deputy communications director for Clinton, got his start in politics working for members of the New Jersey delegation and is an avowed Springsteen fanatic.

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 16, 2008; 11:54 AM ET
 
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