Barack Obama, John McCain – and Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher – took center stage at Hofstra University on Long Island last night, making the final presidential debate in this campaign the best of the general election season. Finally, the much-anticipated “YouTube moments” arrived, and both campaigns can claim to have scored points. Whether voters make up their minds based on debate scorecards is another matter.
McCain came out on the offense early, and as boxing-minded commentators will probably say, he landed a few jabs.
The Republican’s change of attitude was clear from the start. He purposely looked at his rival across the table and addressed him directly through the night. Among his early good moments was his much-awaited chance to differentiate himself from President George W. Bush. After Obama resorted to his usual “history lesson” and mentioned the current administration had greatly increased the national deficit, McCain quickly retorted, “If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago. I’m going to give a new direction to this economy and this country.”
Obama seemed a bit taken aback by McCain’s aggressive start, but sticking to his usual lines and playing a conservative defense game, he seemed to avoid committing any serious mistakes.
Then came Joe — a name that will probably stay in our Google and YouTube searches for a while. By one count, he got at least thirteen mentions in the first part of the debate. Soon enough, a Twitter user named PlumberJoe had been created. [Here’s a video of Joe with Obama and on the phone with Fox News.]
McCain brought up Joe, an Ohio plumber that had met Obama a few days ago.
Barack Obama answering a question from Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher
in Holland, Ohio last Sunday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong.)
According to McCain, Joe -no relation to Joe Sixpack- would fall into a higher tax bracket under his rival’s proposals. The Republican promised to keep the plumber’s taxes low and provide him with affordable health care for him and his employees. McCain also said Obama would take Joe’s money to “spread the wealth around,” which he deemed “class warfare.”
Those early attacks seem to fluster the usually-cool Democratic candidate, but he came back at McCain on the “Joe” situation later on. After McCain repeated his standard line about the Democrat’s plan to fine companies which don’t provide health coverage to their employees, Obama looked at the camera and told Joe: “Here’s your fine: zero,” going on to explain that his plan exempts small businesses.
McCain looked stunned for a few seconds after that, and responded “Hey Joe, you’re rich, congratulations.” (more…)