October 30th, 2008
04:58 PM ET

Joe the Plumber – A No Show!

Dana Bash | BIO
CNN Political Correspondent

During my regular morning call to McCain headquarters to see what’s up for the day, an aide told me we would finally see Joe Wurzelbacher – Joe the Plumber – appear with John McCain.

McCain’s entire closing theme is based on Wurzelbacher’s curbside encounter with Barack Obama over taxes. But Joe’s never been to a McCain rally.

About halfway through McCain’s first speech in Defiance, Ohio, however, I realized Joe wasn’t there. I called the aide I had spoken with in the morning, who told me that in fact Joe wasn’t going to be there after all.

Unfortunately, no one told the candidate.

As I was hanging up the phone, McCain started to yell for Joe, who he thinks is in the crowd.

“Joe’s with us today. Joe, where are you?” McCain called the into the crowd, “Where’s Joe? Is Joe here with us today? Joe, I thought you were here today (pause) All right, well, you’re all Joe the plumber, so all of you stand up and say – I thank you.”


It was an awkward moment.

McCain aides called it a “miscommunication,” but once I got on the bus I called Wurzelbacher myself and asked him what really happened.

He told me that he had hoped to come to the morning rally, but that no one from McCain’s campaign ever called him back to confirm,

Bigger ooops.

He said he had heard McCain yelled for him and he wasn’t there, and Joe was “not happy about it.”

It turns out, as soon as camp McCain realized the error, they sent a car for Wurzelbacher and raced him to hook up with McCain’s bus caravan, which was making its way across Ohio.

Shortly after 2pm in a sunny, picturesque town square in Sandusky, Ohio, McCain was speaking to a crowd under a Gazebo and called Joe’s name.

This time, he answered.

He jumped on the stage, and the crowd went wild.

“All right guys, I didn’t prepare anything. The only thing I’ve been saying is just to get out and get informed. I mean really know what you’re talking about when you’re talking about it,” Wurzelbacher bellowed.

“Don’t take everyone’s opinions. I came to my own opinions by research. Get involved in the government. That way we can hold our politicians accountable and take back out government. It’s all ours.”

The only problem is that McCain started to speak before those of us in the press traveling with him got in...
and many of my colleagues in TV and print missed the joe moment.

Afterwards Joe worked the ropeline, shaking hands and signing autographs for voters there to see McCain.

And now Joe is doing something those of use in McCain’s traveling press corps haven’t been allowed to in months.

He’s riding the Straight Talk Express…as we followed behind.

By the next stop in Elyrie, Ohio, camp McCain seemed to have finally worked out the kinks. Joe finally, explicitly endorsed McCain.

"Vote for a real American," he told the cheering crowd, "John McCain."

Filed under: Dana Bash • Joe the Plumber • John McCain • Raw Politics
soundoff (130 Responses)
  1. Lisa

    You guys are all going to be crying on wednesday when the McCain Democrats deliver your Bradley effect.

    October 31, 2008 at 7:33 pm |
  2. Scott

    The sad thing about this whole issue is that “Joe” should have been someone that Obama won over to his side if he didn’t blunder his moment with “Joe” by talking about “distributing the wealth”.

    It was one of the few actual mistakes that Obama has made in his nearly 2-year long campaign. Fortunately, I think he’s enough ahead that the issue can’t recruit enough “Joes" to vote, again, outside of their best economic interests.

    October 31, 2008 at 6:59 pm |
  3. Scott

    The sad thing about this whole issue is that "Joe" should have been someone that Obama won over to his side if he didn't blunder his moment with "Joe" by talking about "distributing the wealth".

    It was one of the few actual mistakes that Obama has made in his nearly 2-year long campaign. Fortunately, I think he's enough ahead that the issue can't recruit enough "Joe"-like blockheads to vote, again, outside of their best interests.

    October 31, 2008 at 6:50 pm |
  4. Ken

    Utterly ridiculous. McCain Palin are grasping quite desperately as evidenced by this Joe "the plant" plumber. I almost embarrassed for them, but too excited about CHANGE coming to this country.

    October 31, 2008 at 6:04 pm |
  5. Art M

    I thought Joe the plumber worked 12 hrs per day, made dinner for his child, helped with homework went to bed and started all over again the next day.
    WOW! Did he get a note from John Mc to miss work? Who is taking care of his child? How is he going to make his house payment ?much less buy himself a company. Is he on the McCain payroll. How about plane tickets? Babysitters?
    I'm not surprised, if McCain wins look for Joe on the Supreme Court. Why not he picked Sarah Palin.

    October 31, 2008 at 3:34 pm |
  6. Pamela Ealy

    I think somebody forgot to tell John McCain that "Joe The Plumber" got a Country Music Deal and he doesn't need him anymore. I guess he forgot to Vet another one!

    October 31, 2008 at 3:09 pm |
  7. Paige

    What a George Costanza moment. Actually, with Sarah Palin doing the Elaine thumb dance and Steve Schmidt flaking out as Kramer, does that make Joe the Plumber Jerry? or Neeewman?

    October 31, 2008 at 3:02 pm |
  8. robin

    For a REAL America, Vote Obama-Biden!

    October 31, 2008 at 2:58 pm |
  9. Marcia

    I'm a real American and I've lived in small and large towns, in the East Coast and California. I've even lived outside the country. I'm a professional in the Silicon Valley.

    No one area of our country has a lock on being Real Americans. Just because I don't work with my hands doesn't mean I'm not a Real American.

    This topic and line of thinking is a ridiculous and insulting to any thinking person.

    Also insulting is the endless parade of talking heads representing different parties on your news shows, speculation regarding polls and magic maps. I've been turning off CNN at a time I'd prefer to see real news reporting.

    October 31, 2008 at 2:34 pm |
  10. Branden

    how desparate can this campaign get? pretty sad when you need to rely on a plumber who isn't there to inject energy in to your campaign. if i hear "joe the plumber" mentioned one more time, i'll likely puke out of disgust. this is a serious election and mccain is treating it like a game with palin and the plumber serving as his mascots.

    the john mccain of today is a pathetic shadow of what he once represented and stood for.

    October 31, 2008 at 2:27 pm |
  11. Rob

    So last week, Sarah Palin complained about her public roll out by the McCain campaign, and no Joe the plumber is angry about his. Hmm.

    October 31, 2008 at 12:17 pm |
  12. WANDA

    Gimmick after gimmick after gimmick, can't stick to the real issues for the life of his so called campaign. First, he all but killed the word "maverick" and now "Joe the Plumber" and this "Real American" crap. Everytime I hear those words I scream and turn the channel. Hurry up November 4th.

    October 31, 2008 at 11:40 am |
  13. Susan K

    Joe the (Non)Plumber, Sarah the Moose killer and John the desperate, WOW! Sounds like a great team to me!

    GO BARACK!!!!

    October 31, 2008 at 11:35 am |
  14. Rachael


    we go from a tragedy pic for VP...Sarah Palin...

    to "some guy" (and I mean that) as a campaign platform.

    That means we went from a VP we knew little about,
    to a guy we, not only know, virtually nothing about, but also don't
    know where he fits into McCain's cabinet!!!!!!!!!!

    When our culture is fractured, our economy in crisis, global changes, both man-made and otherwise are pressing pervasively, it is nice to know that Sam (Joe) and Sarah are there...

    At last, we could finally have an "intelligent person" in the White House...and I care little that he would be black, mixed, ivy-league, democrat, eats argula or steak burgers, etc...

    But that we FINALLY REALIZE THE CRISIS IS BEST HANDLED BY INTELLIGENT PEOPLE. There are so many people at the top in every sector that are there, not because they are truly intelligent, but because they were most manipulative with the intelligence they had...and there is a difference, Joe, if you are out there in the crowd!

    October 31, 2008 at 11:15 am |
  15. Kim

    God bless o'l Joe ! He's been investigated and the news is at his house and no telling what else he's going through. Sounds like boot camp ! No ones perfect but he sure sounds like a cool American and way to go Joe ! They tried to make up a name to protect his privacy but that didn't work ! Holly smokes on the river of Jordon and did he know what he was getting into ? An American with a voice and opinion about election 08 ? Joe's not accused of hanging out with radical ,political people and has he been accused of going to a fund raiser for someone that was going to blow a police station up ? There is no telling what's true and what's not in all this. Rumors and mud flying attacks left and right but head straight down middle Joe and appreciate your go ! Has he hung out with someone trying to blow up the pentagon ? To suspect that of someone and not run the other way is not logical but who knows, if that's true and go American middle class Joe !

    October 31, 2008 at 11:00 am |
  16. Rashelle

    Say it ain't so Joe! =] I am a student in H.S. but i live in a family of Joe the Plumbers and Ron the Truckers. I am gulity of being a Mini-Joe the plumber in progress

    October 31, 2008 at 10:59 am |
  17. J in MI

    So, Barack isn't a real American? Thanks for your insight "Joe the irrelevant stage prop!"

    October 31, 2008 at 10:28 am |
  18. Jan

    Is Joe the Plumber a plant? A total scam? Here's a guy who isn't even a licensed plumber and who's behind in his taxes and child support. He repeatedly insists he talk to Senator Obama and tells him he wants to buy his boss' business but can't because Sen. Obama would raise his taxes. He tells Sen. Obama that the (2 man) business would make over $250,000 creating a scenario where Sen. Obama would have to explain to him that his taxes would be raised a little and why. Then all of a sudden this guy is "Joe the Plumber", the main theme of the Republican campaign, and Sen. Obama is a socialist who wants to spread the wealth around. Is the guy even employed? He always seems to either be at home or on the campaign trail so how would he have the money to buy an established business? Something isn't right here and it sounds like a set up.

    October 31, 2008 at 10:16 am |
  19. ross berg

    Another sad mini example of a campaign in complete disaray! I find myself feeling truly sorry for John McCain and for his and our sake I wish the election were over.

    Just hope that most Americans will have the intelligence/ability to put it behind us ASAP and get united in our efforts to put the economy back on the right track??

    It will be a first for me since I started voting in 1960 to be voting for a Democratic candidate as I shudder at the thought of Sara Palin sitting in the Oval office.

    October 31, 2008 at 9:37 am |
  20. Mike

    All I've seen the past few weeks is Obama staying on message...how he's going to deal with the economic issues of the country, energy policy, social security, health care....and all I've seen McCain and Palin doing is attacking Obama. Nothing substantive coming out of either McCain or Palin's mouth worth voting for. And McCain he's for change?! If the same ol' politics is what he is doing now, what kinda change is he going to bring to Washington? He's been in Washington for 30+ years now and he says he's for change? Well, it doesn't take Joe the Plumber to figure out that if McCain has been in Washington that long and if Washington is so messed up, then McCain's part of the problem, not part of the solution. If he hasn't changed anything in 30 years, he isn't going to do it in 4-8 years. A vote for Obama is a vote for change!

    October 31, 2008 at 9:22 am |
  21. Eugene E. Crommett

    Senator McCain has followed an old Republican Tradition by calling on a plumber to help him.. Remember Nixon and Watergate? in 1971 Colson, Hunt and others were the "plumbers" who broke into the DNC headquarters at the Watergate complex and, as well, the offices of the Psychiatrist Ellsbery who had publicized the Pentagon Papers. Indeed, for dirty tricks and character assassination the Republicans have no equals.

    October 31, 2008 at 9:14 am |
  22. Jeff

    I think JTP was never scheduled to show. It was just John McBush having a "senior moment" and now his campaign is trying to cover for him. Just think what kinda trouble his senior moments could get us into if he were elected! "Oh you said 'Lunch is at Miss Bell's Resturant....I thought you said 'Launch the missiles at Russia'...my bad."
    If elected, not since FDR and Harry Truman would a vice-president have such a high probibility of becoming president than Sara Palin. McBush is 72, has had cancer, and looks like he can hardly stand up some days. Would this nation be satisfied having Caribou Barbie as President and Todd as first man? Stuffed moose heads hanging in the East room of the White House again and teen-age pregnancy and shot-gun weddings are now "family values." Come on...She beat out Joe the Bartender (JTB) from Klondike Bob's House of Crabs in the election for governor of a state with so few people it couldn't staff Airforce One. Is she really capable of being President?

    October 31, 2008 at 9:12 am |
  23. Charlie

    It seems that over 50% of us are not REAL Americans. How could we be if we're not voting for McCain. It seams that everything that comes out of the mouth of a Republican is hate filled and divisive.

    Considering how McCain and Palin hate the majority of this country, how will they deal with people and governments that REALLY are not Americans? It's sad to see how those two have based their strategy on name calling and hate. It's obvious that they have run out of ideas.

    And Joe, what's up with the "I want to buy a business thing?" I've got news for ya Joe, IT AIN'T gonna happen. First, have to have the ability to run a business. Which business school did you attend? Second, you have to have capital. How far are you behind on paying your taxes? Do you really think that you will earn $250,000 a year and therefore have to lay off your imaginary employees? I don’t think that you have to worry about President Obama’s plan to eliminate the existing tax break for the rich. Not in this life Joe.

    October 31, 2008 at 8:24 am |
  24. S.HAYES

    Some times i think that this guy is way off Q. he should just zip it and pay his back taxes like a real american. I don't know how you become
    a real american but Obama's mother was white and his dad was black what's more American than that. America the melting pot.

    October 31, 2008 at 8:11 am |
  25. Anna

    John McCain has shown one bad judgment after another. He seems confused, if not senile.

    October 31, 2008 at 7:41 am |
  26. joanne

    I prefer Joe the Plumber to Joe foot in mouth, brain addled, Biden. Biden has been a Washington hanger-on for 35 years, done nothing except pal around with Ted Kennedy, and harass people who are called on to testify before the Senate. HIs shameful attacks on Clarence Thomas and General Petraeus, both men he isn't fit to be in the same room with, are indicative of his only talent....being a bully when protected by other pols while show-boating on TV. BUT THE THING YOU SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT IS THE VINDICTIVE INVASION OF JOE'S FILES BY THE STATE OF OHIO. YOUR GUY'S HAVE STARTED A VENDETTA, WORTHY OF A POLICE STATE , AND YOU SEEM TO ACCEPT IT, ALL BECAUSE AN ORDINARY CITIZEN ASKED A SIMPLE QUESTION. THEY HAVE USED GOVERNMENT LACKEYS TO TRY TO PUNISH AND HUMILIATE HIM....AND YOU THINK IT IS JUST FINE. I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE WHAT THE DO NEXT...PROBABLY PUT HIM IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP TO BE RE-EDUCATED. I think it is fitting that Joe is a plumber because the Democratic Party has become a sewer.

    October 31, 2008 at 7:11 am |
  27. Bruce Ellis

    I find it amazing that Joe the Plumber can be taken seriously when he calls anything "real", even John McCain. Joe is not a "real' plumber. He is not a "real" small businessman. His self interests come first, not the country. He seems to care more about "country and western" than country!
    I am a real small businessman. I employ people. I pay my taxes, as does my corporation, unlike Joe. We offer company-paid full health care for our employees. I do believe that paying higher taxes for high wage earners is patriotic and "I have the scars to prove it" (just look at my tax returns). I own a company than generates well over $250,000 in revenue and do not believe my business taxes will be raised by Obama. Why not explain the difference between revenue and profit on the "no bias no bull" network. Quotes added for the benefit of John McCain. 😉 McCain's tax plan will only allow the rich to get richer through continued outsourcing/off-shoring.

    October 31, 2008 at 7:09 am |
  28. Diane

    McCain says that Joe the Plummer is a metaphor of America. No, Joe is not. I pay my taxes. Joe does not. I am who I say I am. Joe is not! He is not!

    October 31, 2008 at 7:06 am |
  29. Bill M.

    It's an old greek saying – a country gets the government it deserves. The choices are clear –

    McCain / Palin:

    Tough-talking, gun-toting, anti-choice, pseudo-secular, pro-cartel capitalism, anti-regulation, flip-flopping team of mavericks completely lost in the corn farm of their own rhetorics. They have failed in consistent messaging, organization, leadership, fund management and uniting their own party. They cannot elaborate their own statements without digressing with winks, smirks, shrugs or scorns.

    Obama / Biden:

    Articulate, intelligent, smart, meticulous, pro-choice, pro-regulation, pro-middle / working class, pro-science, pro-environment, visionary leaders. At every step they have showed restraint, composure, maturity, pro-acitveness. Their plans have the details which have not changed completely over with every passing week.

    Its for Americans to realize who they identify or want to identify themselves with. Its not about any party allegiance anymore. Its about one's own self... A ballot box is nothing but a mirror.... The world is keen to know who we Americans think we are.

    October 31, 2008 at 6:58 am |
  30. Anne D'Amour

    If Joe was a real plumber, he would have been working yesterday. It seems he is just sitting around waiting for the Republican car to come and take him to a McCain or Palin rally. I think he should be called "Joe the Unemployed". I can't believe that reasonable people who are watching this circus could possibly go out and vote for John McCain. McCain is insulting the American people by using this "Joe the Plumber" ploy and by using the term "Real Americans". All American citizens are "real" Americans. There are no "unreal" American citizens.

    October 31, 2008 at 6:15 am |
1 2 3