Thousands party with Jay Z in Cleveland for Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton greets Beyonce before a campaign event and performance at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Nov. 4, 2016. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
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Hillary Clinton greets Beyonce before a campaign event and performance at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Nov. 4, 2016. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

It may be an unusual warm-up act for a 69-year-old grandmother of two, but these are unusual times: Firing up a crowd in Cleveland for Hillary Clinton Friday were three rap stars, throwing down the occasional R-rated rhyme and a surprise, legendary guest: Beyonce.

“Ohio,” cried Jay Z, to an enthusiastic, dancing crowd at Cleveland State University. “We have the power to change the world!”

In what may be one of the most star-studded rallies of 2016, Jay Z, Beyonce, Chance the Rapper and Big Sean urged the crowd to vote early for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Clinton came out at the end of the concert encouraging the crowd to vote on Tuesday.

“I want to be a president who helps everyone reach their god-given potential,” Clinton told the crowd. “Take this energy out with you here in Cuyahoga County where every day is Election Day.”

Clinton needs these votes in Ohio’s largest county: President Barack Obama got nearly 69 percent of the vote in Cuyahoga County in 2012 and 2008. In 2012, Ohio was one of only a handful of counties that Obama won – but it brought him well over the edge.

In order to win the state, Clinton needs Cuyahoga County to turn out.

At an event in Pennsylvania, Trump said he doesn’t need celebrities to draw a crowd.

“I didn’t have to bring J-Lo or Jay Z, the only way she gets anybody. I’m here all by myself,” Trump said.

Exactly four years ago, Obama brought Stevie Wonder to Cincinnati, an event that packed the room but targeted an older crowd. This time, Clinton is making an unabashed push for millennial voters.

All day long, the Clinton campaign had gone back and forth on whether Beyonce, Jay Z’s wife, would appear.

It was former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland who finally tipped off the boisterous crowd, which filled the lower tier of the arena and scattered about the top tier of Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center. “Tonight Cleveland is the city of Queen Beyonce,” he said, and the crowd went wild.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, speaking after Strickland, tried to put the genie back in the bottle, saying she “might” appear.

But in such a divisive campaign, the event drew pushback. Darrell Scott, senior pastor at the New Spirit Revival Church in Cleveland criticized Clinton for bringing in Jay-Z “as a role model for youth in Cleveland.”

“For all of her talk about fighting for kids, she has no problem sharing a stage with someone who glamorizes acts of violence and having pushed drugs in our local communities,” he said. “Donald Trump has spent time meeting with our community and has a plan for urban renewal that will allow black youth to achieve their American dreams through hard work, while Hillary Clinton continues to resort to stereotypical election year pandering.”

Clinton appeared earlier in the day in Pittsburgh and Detroit, where she is trying to lock in what has traditionally been a stronghold for Democrats. She’d also deployed her surrogates to battlegrounds across the nation: Vice-Presidential nominee Tim Kaine was in Florida, President Barack Obama in North Carolina, former President Bill Clinton in Colorado, daughter Chelsea Clinton in New Hampshire, Vice-President in Joe Biden in Wisconsin and Sen. Bernie Sanders, her one-time primary rival, in Iowa.

In all, she and Kaine combined have made 28 stops in Ohio, while Trump and Pence have made 46 stops.

Clinton will be back in Ohio on Sunday, for what is being billed as a “get out the vote” event in Cleveland.