Barack, John, and Joe The Plumber: Reacting To the Final Debate

Barack, John, and Joe The Plumber: Reacting To the Final Debate


Joe Wurzelbacher is now the most famous plumber in the history of American politics since Watergate.

Starting with the very first question of tonight’s debate, John McCain drew upon the name of the plumber who asked Obama about his small business tax plan in an effort to hammer home the message that Barack Obama would increase taxes on middle class Americans and small businesses. He talked about Joe the Plumber when they talked about taxes. He talked about Joe the Plumber when they talked about health care. Heck, I was almost expecting him to raise Joe when they started talking about abortion.

It was perhaps the best, and worst, example of a pre-scripted talking point that I’ve seen in a long time.

Obviously, McCain was trying to connect with middle America and convince them that Barack Obama woud raise their taxes, eviscerate their health care, and god knows what he would do to the nation’s plumbing system.

The problem is that the more McCain mentioned it, the more it came across as an obvious gimmick.

Based on his comments on Fox News, it’s clear that McCain can probably count on Joe the Plumber’s vote.

The question, though, is whether McCain did anything tonight that will turn the race around.

I think it’s clear that he didn’t.

McCain’s best moment came early in the debate when, in response to yet another Obama comment linking McCain to the Bush Administration, he looked Obama in the eye and said “I’m not President Bush” and suggested that if he wanted to run against Bush, he was four years too late. Beyond that, though, what we saw tonight was the same weak, sometimes slick but mostly just tired, John McCain that we saw in the past two debates.

Surprisingly, moderator Bob Schieffer actually brought up the issue of the negative tone of the campaign, and that gave McCain an opportunity to step into the Bill Ayers trap, an opportunity that he jumped at with more enthusiasm than I expected. While McCain repeated the same Republican party line about Ayers and Obama that we’ve heard for two weeks now, Obama did a pretty good job of both deflecting the attack and showing McCain to be desperate for even making it.

But that was about the end of the fireworks. As the night wore on, the candidates touched on health care, education, the Supreme Court, and even abortion. For the most part, though, their responses were right out of stump speeches.

The major headline coming out of this debate will be fairly simple — John McCain failed to do anything tonight to change the tone of this debate, he failed to do anything to convince the public that he would be a better steward of the economy, and he failed completely in any effort to raise any doubts about the character or readiness of his opponent.

There are twenty days to go. The poll numbers will fluctuate along with the headlines, as will the polls in individual battleground states. However, it’s fairly clear after tonight that the trend that started in mid-September with Barack Obama taking the lead will continue and that Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States.

  • Gaucho Politico

    Actually i think there were a couple of interesting moments that came after the obviously scripted line about “not being George Bush”. The healthcare debate was a disaster for McCain. Obama looked into the camera and broke down his healthcare plan and also managed to get in the he gives you five for something that costs 12 idea. When Obama told joe the plumber his fine woould be zero and mccain was shocked, that was telling moment. Obama owned that segment.

    Then there was the abortion segment where mccain was obviously passionate about his position but his comments about the “health of the mother” being an extreme position are going to turn off a lot of independents and non rightwing votes. he had a point to make in that the definition could be stretched to allow abortions for anything. he never actually made the point though and instead it came across very bad like he could care less about the health of the mother.

    I think he started the debate off strong but the end was very bad for him. Plus he continuously mixed up down and autism in re trig.

  • barnyard

    Turns out that Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher is related to Charles “the Crook” Keating of the infamous Keating 5 scandal. Hilarious.

  • Conrad

    The Top 50 Swing Voters: #27 – Joe The Plumber

    #50 – Hockey Moms – Demographic Power Play
    #47 – People with STDs – Burning for Change
    #40 – Anonymous Sperm Donors – Swimming Against The Tide
    #36 – Master Debaters – Everybody’s Doing It
    #29 – Nudists – Sticking To The Issues

  • vote RON PAUL President

    i don’t know why joe is struggling so hard. he should move to pennsylvania, one state over, where we have a defficiency in plumbers. u always have to wait and they sure aren’t by any means cheap. plus all the left over used copper is worth a pretty penny at the scrap yard. its even being stolen from churches and telephone lines by narcotic addicts around my area. The War on Drugs is over. Hopefully the war in Iraq will follow its lead instead of ending up in iran and venezuela. I don’t even want to work at a job to pay taxes to support these wars. it is genocide just like the nazi regime and we need to learn from the history of our past mistakes instead of re-living them.

  • mw

    Interesting how frequently this comment is showing up word for wordon blogs across the internet. I guess the campaign memo went out right after the debate – shoot the messenger. I tell you – Axelrod is the untold story of this campaign – He’s good. He’s very good. He makes Rove look like an amateur. Axelrod = “Barack’s Brain”

  • Alan Stewart Carl

    Nice catch, mw. Those guys are good.

  • Jeff

    @MW and ASC:

    I clicked on the link and counted 12 blogs where the Keating/Plumber comment was posted. Wow! This is unequivocal evidence of direct involvement from the highest level’s of Obama’s campaign. Who else would have the resources and organizational capabilities to pull off such a high volume canvassing of so many blogs? Obama’s team must have had an army of interns working all night to get that message out.

    Or maybe, one guy, not associated with the Obama camp, went around to some blogs for an hour last night, and posted it.

  • Alan Stewart Carl

    Jeff, oh, I dunno who spread this, but when this kind of thing starts popping up on Daily Kos and Democratic Underground just hours after the debate, I gotta think it’s more than one guy spreading the rumor. Someone had the resources to dig this up/create it and distribute it within the first few seconds of Joe’s 15 minutes of fame. It’s peculiar in its scope and timing.

  • jill

    Watch for a send-up of Joe the Plumber and McCain on the next SNL, which is where they both belong. Let’s not shed any tears over Joe and his higher taxes. He’ll be sitting pretty throughout the recession. Hiring a plumber isn’t a discretionary expenditure. If you need one, you’ll hire one regardless of what the economy’s doing. And for all his whining about being penalized for trying to reach the American Dream, Joe’s no poster boy for those who are trying to do the same. Appearing on a talk show this morning, Joe said that when he asked Obama about his taxes, Obama “tap danced” around the issue “like Sammy Davis Jr.” Apparently he thinks an African-American who aspires to the office of the presidency is as laughable as a dancing ape. He may not even be aware that his remark was racist, which is the most frightening part of this sorry episode.

  • mw

    I linked to the query of the full exact quote. That means there are many more variations that do not show up in that particular query. Those that did show up use virtually identical language with different commenter names. None link back on the name. Finally, many (most?) comment threads will not show up in a google web query – I tried this query when I was running across the same comment on several blogs, most of which did not actually show up in the google query. The search is the tip of the iceberg, but tells you what is underneath.

  • mw

    Why would you compare Sammy Davis Jr to a dancing ape?

    Are you a racist?

  • Teresa

    So Obama is smooth, so is a peach, but I wouldn’t vote for it as President. Below are just some things of interest I’ve noticed over the last few days.

    Obama lied about the partial birth abortion issue last night. I will attach the link to the nurse who brought the issue before Congress because of the horrible things that were happening to these babies that were being born alive due to botched abortions. Obama is the only Senator who took the floor in favor of this procedure. The nurse’s website is

    Also, I don’t know if you’re aware of the pending lawsuit against Obama claiming that he is not a natural born citizens of the US and is, therefore, not eligible to run for the Office of the President. Obama has not presented credentials that would prove otherwise and Democrats in Congress have joined with him in asking for a dismissal of the case. If there’s nothing to it, then show them your birth certificate, correct? Michelle Obama also got into the act. I’ve also put the two links to both of those as well.…/the-michelle-obama-story-sparks-outcry-in-the-us-the-americans-demand-that-api-makes-public and Also, do you remember Ms. Obama making a statement at their convention that this was the first time she had been proud to be an American? Shame on her.

    Obama and friends like Ayers – see link – lie

    Obama and Acorn – see link – another lie

    Obama and his pastor – and

    On a positive note – John McCain’s letter warning about Fannie and Freddie:

    John McCain will not raise your taxes, Obama will. If you watched the debate you noticed that Obama said his tax plan will not affect Americans who make less than $200K, before it was $250K. He has voted twice for tax increases on people who make $42,000 a year. He wants to redistribute the wealth, have a government run healthcare system, says it’s within the President’s perogative to sit down with anyone, without preconditons, including the terriorist who wants to destroy Israel, and has also made the statement that dividing Israel may have to be looked at.

    John McCain will protect Americans and Israel, Obama will only protect those he considers the middle class, only he hasn’t defined those parameters. That makes me nervous. John McCain is patriotic and supports our military, Obama has done nothing during his time in the Senate but make sure that there is not enough funding for their equipment needs or full time military personnel. We have to depend on people who signed up for the reserves. John McCain has fought against earmarks and special interest groups, Obama requested $3.4 million for an “overhead projector” for the Sky Theater at the Adler Planetarium – this is the man who is concerned about the Federal deficit. John McCain will give a $5,000 tax credit to all Americans to pay for health care insurance. These means that people like my daughter who works for a small business can now afford insurance instead of going without and guess what? The government will not be telling her, who, what, where and when. You will not lose your employer paid benefits if you currently receive them. It will be considered a taxable benefit that the credit will be applied towards.

    My last thought is this, do you trust Obama who has never been in charge of a budget of any kind, a military unit of any kind, a governmental agency of any kind and first and foremost, the lives of 305,427,020 Americans? I don’t. I’m voting for McCain-Palin.

  • Jeff

    I was just making my assessment of the evidence that was provided- the link given by MV- which was laughably thin.

    Still, there is no real reason to think that this information was necessarily fueled by the Obama campaign. Thousands of reporters and political junkies were trying to find out who Joe was as soon as he was mentioned. Once someone posts something breaking on the internet, it can spread like wildfire.

    Given how many people were searching for this info, and how many people were interested in it, the odds are simply against the Obama campaign was the pulling the strings on this whole thing.

    You guys are too scared of Obama and give him too much credit. He has the conservatives thinking that he is all-powerful.

  • Alan Stewart Carl

    He has the conservatives thinking that he is all-powerful.

    Much like liberals have too long thought Bush/Rove are all powerful.

    Must have something to do with being on the losing side.

  • http://none Sally Davids

    This whole thing is bonkers..

    People are just trying to make money off of joe its ridiculous.

    The question doesn’t even apply to the guy who asked it.
    I don’t understand.

    And these morons are already making websites for Joe:

    the list goes on..

    I wish this would end