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Why Joe the Plumber Matters

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I think Joe the Plumber is going to be one of those quirky political moments we’ll all remember for years to come. But outside of his name being invoked ad nauseam last night, do the concerns of Joe Wurzelbacher mean anything to this election?

I’d say yes. And here’s why: while 95% of Americans may receive a tax cut under Barack Obama’s plan, most of that 95% want to believe they can someday be in the 5% making more than $250,000 a year. And if they make it to that level, they don’t want to be penalized for their hard work. That’s just basic American psychology. Don’t you know we’re all going to make it big someday?

This issue will resonate with some voters – even those with little chance of ever making $250,000 barring lucky lottery numbers – because “higher taxes” and “sharing the wealth” are ideas that sound suspicious to most Americans, especially in an economic downturn when we all want to hold as tightly as we can to our hard-earned money. A tax cut sounds good. But a qualified tax cut – such as Obama’s – sounds fishy. If he’s willing to go after my rich neighbor’s money, what’s to stop him from coming after my money when he finds himself wanting more?

To be clear, the above paragraph is not my thought process, it’s just a description of how I imagine a certain percentage of Americans are thinking this morning as the Joe the Plumber story circulates through the media. It’s not a game changer. But it is the best shot McCain has landed in a long time and I expect him to ride it for the final three weeks of this election.