By Jeff Mason
WILLIAMSBURG, Virginia (Reuters) - Republican Mitt Romney may have Clint Eastwood on his side, but President Barack Obama has Bruce Springsteen.
The rock star will perform at campaign rallies for the president in the battleground states of Ohio and Iowa on Thursday, the Obama campaign said.
His appearances come as the president's team is ramping up efforts to turn out supporters before the November 6 election. Obama and Romney are running neck and neck in national polls after the Republican's strong performance in their October 3 debate boosted his campaign.
"Iowans understand hard work, fairness and integrity, the same values that Bruce Springsteen, the president and vice president stand for," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement. "Springsteen's appearances will be valuable in energizing supporters and getting out the vote effort in these important swing states."
The Obama campaign did not have details about the size of the venues in Ames, Iowa and the Parma, Ohio, area. Former President Bill Clinton will be at the event with Springsteen in Ohio. Both events are free and open to the public.
The Obama campaign often plays Springsteen songs at campaign stops, believing his working-class themes fit in well with the president's message. The New Jersey-born rocker also campaigned for Obama in 2008.
Eastwood, the Oscar-winning director and actor, made a surprise and somewhat bizarre appearance at the Republican National Convention when he used an empty stool as a prop to represent the Democratic incumbent.
Obama is spending the weekend at a resort in Williamsburg, Virginia, where he is preparing for the next debate on Tuesday with Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.
Senator John Kerry will reprise his role impersonating the Republican presidential candidate. Obama advisers David Axelrod, David Plouffe and others are working with the president to craft a sharper performance after his lackluster encounter with Romney at their first debate.
Virginia is a battleground state, and the president's choice of location for debate preparation not far from Washington was not an accident. As he did during his stay in Nevada before the first debate, Obama will likely make an unscheduled stop in the area to generate local press coverage during his stay.
Aides to the president have been reluctant to share details on how his debate preparation is structured.
A campaign official said he would spend the coming days practicing and studying material.
Vice President Joe Biden brought new vigor to the Obama campaign after his aggressive debate on Thursday against Romney's running mate, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan. But voters traditionally pay much closer attention to the candidates at the top of the ticket.
Obama is likely to follow up on issues from the vice presidential debate where his campaign believes Ryan showed signs of weakness, including taxes, women's right to abortion, and a time line for ending the war in Afghanistan.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)