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Clinton’s concert tour isn’t just about big crowds – Politico

CELEBS

Clinton’s concert tour isn’t just about big crowds – Politico


CLEVELAND — The marquee of Hillary Clinton’s closing rallies increasingly resembles a music festival. On Friday night alone at Cleveland State University, she appeared on stage with Beyonce — who wore a pantsuit and brought along back-up dancers wearing “I’m with her” t-shirts — Jay Z, Chance the Rapper, J. Cole, and Big Sean. On Saturday night in Philadelphia, Clinton’s slated to appear alongside Katy Perry. And that’s far from the full list: artists from Stevie Wonder to Steve Aoki to Jennifer Lopez are chipping in over the campaign’s closing hours.

But the free concerts aren’t just there to draw Donald Trump-sized crowds. They’re part of an under-the-radar tactic that Clinton’s Brooklyn team believes is a powerful organizing tool that’s already yielding results for the campaign’s get-out-the-vote efforts — especially in the critical counties and among the demographic groups Clinton needs most.

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The candidate with famously high unfavorable ratings doesn’t even have to make the pitch herself for the strategy to work: she spoke for five minutes in front of the crowd of 10,000 here, letting the headliners take the night — and even then the performers barely said her name, instead simply imploring the audience to vote.

Instead, her campaign focuses on the distribution of the free tickets themselves in the days before of the event, which lets the local teams collect, analyze, and mobilize thousands of new names in communities where they see warning signs, like young African Americans in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County.

Indeed, for the Cleveland event, one ticket distribution site for the Cleveland event was directly across the street from the Board of Elections office.

And already, the campaign is seeing signs that the concerts are having their desired effect — including when artists are paired with traditional political surrogates: Ahead of President Barack Obama’s appearance with James Taylor, for example, the local operatives handed out tickets across the street from an early voting site in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Voting turnout there jumped 80 percent compared to the previous day, making it the single largest voting day there so far — and bumping up county-wide turnout 16 percent by itself.

“It’s about energy, it’s about mobilization. We who work in politics or cover politics have been thinking about this election for a year and a half, but there are still people who have not in some of these communities,” said Addisu Demissie, Clinton’s director of national voter outreach and mobilization. “There are a lot of ways we talk to voters — through the press, through direct voter contact — but this is just another tool in the arsenal to get to communities that aren’t necessarily engaged.”

Clinton needs all the engagement she can get in the final days of her battle against Trump, particularly when it comes to getting African American turnout back to previous cycles’ levels and ensuring record Latino turnout continues apace. Bringing on celebrities — some of whose support for Clinton is less vocal than their backing of Obama was — can be an “integral organizing effort,” in the words of Obama’s 2008 national surrogate director Teal Baker.

The full list of concerts stretches from Florida to New Hampshire and Nevada to Pennsylvania. Not all of them feature an appearance from Clinton, Obama, or former president Bill Clinton — who appeared with Aoki in Las Vegas in a bid to energize young Clark County students — but each includes appearances from local Democrats up and down the ballot, imploring the audience to vote. In Cleveland, Jay Z’s warm-up acts included the Cuyahoga County executive, Rep. Marcia Fudge, former governor and current Senate candidate Ted Strickland, and Sen. Sherrod Brown.

The events can cost millions of dollars to put on, and they’re not a new tactic, having been used to greatest effect in 2008, when Obama — who, unlike Clinton, drew enormous crowds in the closing days of his campaign even without celebrity performances — used a mix of small gospel events and a wide array of big concerts. Big Sean, speaking on stage on Friday, even revealed that he was in the audience at Jay Z’s concert for Obama that year in Detroit.

Clinton’s performers are occasionally even slow to say her name at the events, instead simply making veiled references to Trump while reiterating the importance of voting.

Clinton herself held a handful featuring Katy Perry and Demi Lovato during the primary season, and her opponent Bernie Sanders made such events a regular occurrence in his own bid. But Clinton is now tightly targeting hers to the areas where her campaign sees a need to shore up the vote, in a move Baker called “textbook surrogate deployment in the final hours.”

As well as the Friday event — billed as “Jay Z and special guests” — Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony event to push Latino engagement in Miami last week. The list goes on: Stevie Wonder encouraging older African American voters to get involved in Philadelphia, Katy Perry pushing millennials in the same city, and Jon Bon Jovi aiming to win over working class white men in Charlotte, Pittsburgh, and St. Petersburg.

The push, which is especially pronounced in Pennsylvania as a way to jolt voters who don’t have access to early voting, has caught Trump’s eye: “I didn’t have to bring JLo or Jay Z, I am here all by myself,” he grumbled in Hershey, Pennsylvania on Friday, and re-raised the argument Saturday morning Florida.

Indeed, the concerts have made up some of the biggest crowds of Clinton’s campaign — Lopez’ concert in Miami drew 7,500 — which has been concerned that this month’s letter from FBI Director Jim Comey would drain enthusiasm from some of its less committed backers, even if it energized Clinton’s base supporters.

“It goes to the value of surrogates in general, which is you get people to show up for events who would not necessarily show up to the candidate or Senator Kaine’s events individually,” said Baker.

Clinton herself barely speaks at them, thanking the performers and offering a truncated version of her stump speech that invariably ends with, “love trumps hate.” But there’s never any ambiguity about the intent of the evening, from the campaign videos that are occasionally played to the set design: the performers often sing with flashing graphics spelling out lines like “VOTE,” “STRONGER TOGETHER,” or “I’M WITH HER” behind them.

And, on occasion, the headliners do wade into the politics of the moment.

Jay Z’s first words on Friday were famous lyrics from the song “Dirt Off You Shoulder,” the first of the evening in which both he and Beyonce said they wanted their daughter to grow up seeing a woman president.

“Ladies is pimps, too.”



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