MADISON, Wis. — Bruce Springsteen was rhyming “Obama” with “pajama” and “Osama.” Presidential advisor and guru David Axelrod was waxing nostalgic about the Iowa caucuses of four years ago. And the president was pleading for votes: “We have come too far to turn back now.”
With a bit of the odd ball, the emotional and the rote, President Obama kicked off the final day his final campaign. Obama started with a rally in Wisconsin, heading next to Ohio and Iowa — a trio of swing states that could ensure a victory. The last rallies will be combined with a blitz of radio and television interviews, each representing a last chance to reach a voter, light a spark, keep the White House.
Obama was not taking on that task alone. He enlisted Springsteen, at this point the Democrats’ go-to guy for a get-out-the-vote soundtrack, to help draw crowds throughout the day.
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In the cold Wisconsin morning, even the Boss needed a little warming up. He asked the crowd of 18,000 to sing along to “No Surrender” with a plaintive, “If I gotta sing it, you do, too.”
But the performance transformed quickly into a freewheeling and heartfelt riff. The Boss joked that Obama called him at night for advice and support and requests. After the first debate, he called singing Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” After the second debate it was “I’m sexy and I know it,” he joked.
After the president asked for a campaign song, Springsteen came up with a folksy call-and-response.
“Let’s vote for the man who got Osama.”
“Forward!” the crowd responded.
The election is “sealed because of this song,” he joked. “This swing state, this is the tipping point.”
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As Springsteen entertained the crowd, Obama’s two top advisors regaled reporters with stories of where the president’s campaign began, the origin stories from Iowa 2007.
“Tonight, when we’re in Des Moines, we’ll be right outside of our headquarters when in 2007 we started and nobody gave us a chance,” said Obama advisor David Plouffe.
“I remember when he called high school leaders who were organizing for him, and they said, ‘Can you call me back, I’m in class right now,’ ” Axelrod said. “There were certain indignities associated with running for president back then.”
“I think tonight is going to be a fairly emotional night,” said the famously unemotional Plouffe. “To be there where it all started. And nobody really saw how we could put it together.”
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The men, wearing matching Obama 2008 fleece jackets, heaped praise on each other and expressed confidence in the president’s chance. (Robert Gibbs, the former press secretary and current campaign advisor, missed the wardrobe memo.)
The race is tight. The election is as close as it can get. But Obama will pull it out, Axelrod predicted.
“It won’t be tied tomorrow,” he said.
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