Last night, John McCain set out to disqualify Barack Obama from the office of the presidency, a goal he did not meet. At times (okay, the whole time) it seemed like he was desperately hoping that if he blinked really hard, Obama would disappear. While McCain came off as cranky and snide, he had his best performance of the three debates, making his points clearly and forcefully — and didn't back away from questioning his opponent over attack ads, William Ayers, John Lewis, and ACORN. Obama appeared more nervous and hesitant, but won points with his positive rhetoric. In the end, McCain's feistiness probably won him points with his base, and Obama's calm and broad appeals probably scored with more independent voters.
So who won? Well, our first instinct is to say Bob Schieffer, who kept the candidates on point and allowed them to duke it out. (Best line: "Are each of you tonight willing to sit at this table and say to each other's face what your campaigns and the people in your campaigns have said about each other?") But the winner in headlines this morning was clearly Joe the Plumber, a.k.a. Joe Wurzelbacher, who was mentioned 26 times in the first half of the debate.
Politico.com clipped together many of the moments from the debate when ol' Joe was mentioned:
Joe Wurzelbacher owns a small plumbing business in Holland, Ohio, and was tossed into the political fray over the weekend while he was playing catch with his son in his front lawn. Obama happened to be in the neighborhood meeting voters, and Wurzelbacher approached him to ask about his tax plan. Wurzelbacher worried that he would be taxed more under Obama's plan once he began making over $250,000, and despite Obama's best efforts to convince him, Wurzelbacher was unimpressed. Watch below:
During the debate, he became a symbol for middle-class America, and both candidates used him to haggle over points of their economic plans. Of course, immediately afterward, news trucks were converging on Wurzelbacher's home. Katie Couric got the first phone interview, during which he argued that he was undecided but it was pretty clear he'll be voting for McCain. You can listen below:
Though McCain had never met Wurzelbacher, and his campaign hasn't even contacted him, the candidate seized on this sound-bite friendly case, calling him "my old buddy Joe" during the debate. (He also mispronounced his name from the get-go, calling him Wurzelburger.)
Joe was on the morning shows today, and says his newfound fame is "kind of neat." His story has already become an icon of the campaign, in a few short hours. Our favorite tidbit that we've learned about ol' Joe, from Good Morning America? His first name is really Sam.