WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has Springsteen. Republican Mitt Romney has his sons.
They, along with dozens of other celebrities and elected officials, are blitzing through battleground states in the White House race’s final days. Their goal: give the presidential campaigns a daily presence in key states even when the men at the top of the ticket (and their running mates) pitch for votes somewhere else.
But these surrogates aren’t just viewed as a bonus by the campaigns. They’re deployed strategically to shore up crucial constituencies.
That’s why Bruce Springsteen and Bill Clinton, two heroes of the middle class, campaigned together last week in Ohio, where white, working-class voters make up about half the electorate.
“This is not a complicated decision,” Clinton said there. “If somebody saved my economy, I’d be for him.”
Obama’s campaign also sent Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a prominent Jewish politician, to heavily Jewish South Florida this week. And Sandra Fluke, who gained notoriety during the political debate over contraception earlier this year, has been appealing to women voters in Colorado and Nevada.
Romney’s campaign has turned to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to rally Hispanic voters in his home state, as well as in Colorado and Nevada, battlegrounds with big Hispanic populations. Former GOP nominee John McCain, who twice won New Hampshire’s Republican primary, has been campaigning there for Romney. And Rick Santorum has sought to burnish his GOP primary rival’s conservative credentials in North Carolina.
Romney’s five adult sons have been among his most effective surrogates. Their focus in countless campaign appearances across the country has been to show their father’s softer side. Romney has used one son in particular, Craig, a fluent Spanish speaker, to help broaden his appeal to Hispanic audiences. Craig Romney addressed the Republican convention in Spanish and also has recorded numerous Spanish-language radio ads for his father.
“Between my five kids and my brothers, there are 18 grandkids now that my dad has,” son Josh Romney told voters in Virginia this month. “So he thinks about those 18 grandkids. This is why he’s in the race.”
Obama has popular kids, too. But at ages 14 and 11, don’t expect to see Malia and Sasha holding solo campaign events in the dwindling days of the race. In fact, the Obama girls have been largely absent from their father’s re-election campaign, except for a brief appearance with their parents at the Democratic Party’s national convention.
A look at other key surrogates for Obama and Romney:
Like her sons, Ann Romney has used her campaign appearances to vouch for her husband’s character. She’s become a regular on the talk-show circuit, appearing on “The View,” ”The Tonight Show” and even co-hosting “Good Morning America.” Mrs. Romney also has been dispatched to Pennsylvania, an Obama-leaning state where polls have tightened. Her trips there are aimed at giving the Republican ticket a foothold in the state without having to deploy the candidate himself.
First lady Michelle Obama is perhaps her husband’s most popular surrogate, drawing thousands of people to her rallies and front-page coverage from local newspapers. Her travel schedule is also steeped in strategy. It’s the first lady keeping up the Obama presence in North Carolina, a state seen as a longshot for the president and one he hasn’t visited in more than six weeks. She’s also been a frequent visitor to Wisconsin, allowing her husband to travel elsewhere while she motivates voters in a state where the campaign feels confident.
Obama’s celebrity connections go beyond Springsteen. Long a hit with the Hollywood crowd, the president also has the backing of actresses Rashida Jones and Ashley Judd and rock star Jon Bon Jovi, all of whom have held events throughout the Midwest. Actor Morgan Freeman also lent his celebrity cache to a recent television advertisement promoting Obama’s economic record.
Romney has celebrity backers as well, including country singer John Rich, comedian Jeff Foxworthy and former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway. But they tend to appear alongside the Republican nominee at rallies, helping energize the crowd, rather than hold solo events.
One advantage of running as an incumbent is the Cabinet.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s speeches on school reform and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’ interviews about falling unemployment aren’t technically campaign events. But they’re all about promoting the president’s policies.
The campaign also has taken advantage of loopholes in federal election rules that allow Cabinet secretaries to campaign if they’re appearing as private citizens, not in their official capacity.
That means Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a former Colorado senator, frequently shows up at campaign events in his home state. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who is black, joined a recent get-out-the-vote bus tour in North Carolina, where Obama needs big turnout from African-Americans. An email announcing Kirk’s participation noted he was appearing “in his personal capacity” and urged reporters to refrain from using his official title.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)