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. Steve

    What in the world does this idiot mean by "real American"? What is Senator Obama?

    October 30, 2008 at 5:52 pm |
  2. Marine Vet

    Vote for a "real" American???

    What, because Barack is black and has a different political ideology than Joe, he's not a "real" American??

    I am so sick of this Bush Republican dividing of our great nation. I put my vote for Obama in the mail today and I only hope that he can heal the people of this country and stop the petty bickering and accusations.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  3. Maggie

    If you are running for President you shouldn't need props. You should be able to talk about the issues yourself. Are you that insecure McCain that you need Joe the plummer.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  4. Hannah Stevens

    Vote for more wars, staying in Iraq forever to keep those no-bid contracts going, more tax cuts for the rich and the oil companies, and nothing for the middle class. McCain wants to keep the bush legacy alive and you can help him do it if you vote for him. Just look how well he has run his campaign. Just look at the person he selected for VP after one 2 hour interview. You can have more people like that running our government....INTO THE GROUND.

    The contrast is stark. McCain wants to fight, fight, fight!! Obama wants to bring us together.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  5. Presley

    "I mean really know what you’re talking about when you’re talking about it"
    OK Joe, the next time I need a "Real Plumber", I'll be sure to ask them if they are in fact a "Real Plumber".
    Aren't his 15 minutes up yet? Haven't we already established Joe is not in fact a plumber but a guy with a middle name of Joe?
    And this is who McCain thinks is an amalgamation of Mr. Main Street, U.S.A.?

    October 30, 2008 at 5:49 pm |
  6. Niko

    Pleas can we leave Joe alone...! I had enough of this guy...

    October 30, 2008 at 5:49 pm |
  7. james

    What a pitty that McCain has to try to get someone like Joe to Endorse him to make his statement. McCain cant even stand on his own words and has to have someone like Joe stand up for him.. Way to go Joe, I think you had the message the first time, until you let McCaines goonies talk you into actually endorsing McCain.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:48 pm |
  8. kristina

    As opposed to the "unreal American?" Joe the Plumber gets a new name. How about Joe the Idiot? Obama 2008

    October 30, 2008 at 5:48 pm |
  9. LaVerne Lewis

    I guess folks in Ohio haven't heard yet, Joe is NOT a real plummer. He's paid by McShame and company. Makes $40K a year and doesn't pay his taxes. Was that why the crowd cheered?

    October 30, 2008 at 5:48 pm |
  10. Heather

    Thanks for giving us a behind the scenes look at this tripe I just wish the rest of the American population would refuse to be so easily manipulted

    October 30, 2008 at 5:48 pm |
  11. erica

    I love anderson but this incident is so dumb i cant belive people are falling into this rap again a "REAL AMERICAN" what does that mean?

    October 30, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  12. Joey Thomas

    This guy is not a plumber, he is a plumbers helper, he does not carry a union card nor does he have the proper skills to be a plumber. He owes back taxes, he should worry about paying those, not to mention his child support, a dead beat father much like McCain was to his first children!!!

    October 30, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  13. Gabriel

    This is all way, WAY too surreal for me. Is he planning a 2012 run with Palin? Palin / Plumber 2012?

    October 30, 2008 at 5:46 pm |
  14. Enough

    What a joke! This man is not even a licensed plumber and ALL he is interested in his own personal gain. I don't know of anyone on "Main Street" that has a publicist!! I am sick of tired of this guy and he doesn't have a story that is appealing at all. Unlicensed plumber who owes back taxes to his county and who had no intention of buying a business since it was even for sale.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:46 pm |
  15. stan

    I like it when they make McCain look like a goof ball.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:46 pm |
  16. R.L.

    Oooops! There goes the entire McCain campaign. The entire campaign was built on "Joe the plumber". I guess Senator McCain was really upset that he didn't get his morning "Joe" for his rally. Doh!

    October 30, 2008 at 5:45 pm |
  17. JP

    That's the craziest thing I seen and heard from the so called Joe "the plumber." He really can't afford to buy a business that net profit exceeds $250,000 but thinks John McCain tax plan will benefit him. I believe he only make $48,000 or so and he and his family will benefit better under Barack's tax plan. Talk about naive.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:44 pm |
  18. Es

    This is so fitting. THERE IS NO JOE THE PLUMBER! 😉

    October 30, 2008 at 5:44 pm |
  19. Jamie

    Is Joe the Plumber really like most average americans? I mean if he is going to be making more than $250,000 a year I think he is a heck of lot better off than average...

    October 30, 2008 at 5:44 pm |
  20. Gerardo Ramirez

    You mean the McCain campaign forgot to coordinate with the Plumber's publicist? Joe must have been busy working his country music CD and book deals!

    October 30, 2008 at 5:44 pm |
  21. Annie Kate

    If this wasn't so ridiculous it would be funny. Is anyone running the show in McCain's campaign?

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    October 30, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  22. Amanda

    I'm so sick and tired of this "real American" crap. For all his talk of "reaching across the aisle," John McCain sure has allowed his VP and other surrogates take the lead in calling Obama (and in many cases his supporters) less American and less patriotic.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  23. Jack Berlin

    PS tell Joe to pat his taxes

    October 30, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  24. Jordan

    haha, McCain is such a joke. Maybe next rally Joe (who isnt a plumber and who's taxes wont go up under obama) will be calling Barack a Lier and a Terrorist.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  25. Dina

    Joe is doing what Sarah plans to do next. Ditch that old fellow!!!! He's TIRED OLD and got THE SHAKES. Go home McCain twitch your toes spend that money and relax your nerves. Let a fresh face do what this country hunger for a NEW HORIZAN IS ABROAD. We can not afford another 4 years of lies, promises and let downs from a rich man. Who don't understand what we middle class and below is going through, Im sorry. If Obama is not our next president AMERICA is in TROUBLE. Bush game over!!! We want a great future with our new president OBAMA. I know this and Joe the plummer knows that too. He had his moment, he used you McCain and Sarah will follow. Just wait til Wed. you will learn OLD MAID!

    October 30, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  26. Lorrie

    Joe the "no-show"

    October 30, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  27. Carl Las Vegas Nevada

    Well, Obviously communtication is not a strong suit for the McCain campaign.

    You have to laugh...

    October 30, 2008 at 5:42 pm |
  28. Jack Berlin

    If McCain can,t run a campain how do you think he can run a country ??

    October 30, 2008 at 5:42 pm |
  29. Ken

    This is ludicrous! Although I neither align myself with either party, I see more solutions coming from the Democratic Party than the Republican party during this presidential campaign. All I associate with McCain and Palin are negative attacks. Palin should have never been selected as his running mate.

    I hope for the Republican Party's sake that they change these strategies and start to look at solutions and talk about hope instead of fear because fear, is a deterrent for progress. And believe me, we cannot afford to fail to come up with innovative ideas or we will get left behind in the world.

    Let's go U.S.!
    I am putting my bet on Barack Obama and Joe Biden!

    October 30, 2008 at 5:42 pm |
  30. Troy Fugnitti

    This seems more like a dog and pony show. I do like Joe's comment about taking the government back. I think Americans should start holding there elected officials accountable for everything they do. If we don't like what they are doing. VOTE them out. Truly a government for the people by the people.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
  31. matt

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

    argh disgusting, because if your name is Obama Hussain, or if you are anything other than white, then you are not a "real" American? – speaks of xenophobia/racism to me.

    In my book (and apparently most Americans) Obama truly defends the values of the Real America more than McCain.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:40 pm |
  32. Lisa

    Sounds to me like Joe the Plumber had to be coached. Now, I can't help but wonder if he was paid.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:40 pm |
  33. Ann

    Is this for real? What a joke. Now the man who wants to be President of the USA is depending on a plumber to get him elected? Wow! Frightening! Go Obama...PLEASE!

    October 30, 2008 at 5:40 pm |
  34. Adam

    I don't like this "vote for a real American" nonsense. Now Joe the Plumber is Joe McCarthy!

    October 30, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  35. Jenna

    Can someone please explain to me why this man, Joe the Plumber, continues to be relevant?

    October 30, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  36. Verow75

    This is how he intends to run our country? With lots of Ooppsies? Hell no! I voted already, and I voted for change!

    October 30, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  37. Keih in San Diego

    7 minutes, 37 seconds of fame remaining.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  38. Paul

    Joe the Plumber is NOT a plumber. He is a crook who claims to be a plumber. He fails to pay his taxes.

    Like McCain and that awful women Palin, he is a mess.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:38 pm |
  39. Peter Wood

    Joe is probably hiding from the IRS. Tax evader and moron #1!

    October 30, 2008 at 5:38 pm |
  40. kerri sengstaken

    My husband and I have always been independent voters. We also own a successful business which puts us in the upper category that will pay more taxes under Obama's plan. We are not rich, although we have lots of money flowing in- it just flows right back out to the 60 families that depend on us for jobs, insurance and 401k's.

    We actually thought that we might vote for McCain. Then the ridiculous antics created by the McCain campaign started-the choice of Palin, Joe the Plumber, the terrorist association crap......come on. Anyone with an education and a reasonable mind would doubt this man now.
    We know he's a good man-but now he shows that he is a weak man. He had us--then he lost us. We will pay more taxes and happliy support someone more presidential. The US needs strong leadership and new ideas--not old school politics.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:35 pm |
  41. Jeff

    Has anyone bothered telling Joe that, considering the extent to which his fears are skewed towards paying taxes, he’s campaigning for the wrong candidate? Buy the dream company or not, Slow Joe would get a better tax cut under Obama’s plan (when Joe asked the question about his fake plans that ‘caught Obama off guard’, he didn’t understand that the fake net value would be far under the mark where he, under Obama’s plan, would theoretically have had to pay a few hundred dollars, – that’s right Joe, only the portion that goes above the ‘Obama limit’ gets the higher tax rate – in other words, Joe needed to make a fake story about a much more expensive company, one that no one like him will ever be able to buy, an one whose owners would never be hurt by the most ‘liberal’ of taxes).
    Or maybe a more simple path to the Joe problem would be to ask: has anyone bothered telling Slow Joe that the tax plan he’s supporting is already in place and has been for a number of years. It obviously hasn’t helped Joe buy that company, and from what I understand about his current situation, it hasn’t helped him at all. In other words, it’s not a question of convincing people that it’s a scam and won’t work, but rather that it DIDN’T work. One thing that it did do was aid the process by which we got burned into paying 700 billion to the same people to whom Bush/McCain did give/want to keep giving the bulk of the tax-break benefits. I’ve forgotten the estimates from years ago warning us of the cost of Bush’s plan, warnings that are real now. But I’ve seen reports by independent tax institutions for the McCain version: just a hair under 1.5 trillion. Isn’t 700 billion enough to give to these people?
    But getting back to Joe, maybe he’s not so slow. Not long ago, I told myself that there’s no stretch of the imagination that could see Joe doing better under McCain’s plan than under Obama’s. I’ve suddenly realized that there are 2 ways, the first not really a stretch, the second a slight one, that Joe could join the McCain tax club: he could make campaign speeches for money or even run for office ; or, he could sue McCain for making a fool out of him by not telling him that Obama would be better for the real Slow Joe as well as the imaginary company-owning Joe.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:34 pm |
  42. Joethecampaigner

    What price did McCain paid to hire the plumber?

    October 30, 2008 at 5:32 pm |
  43. Brandon WA

    I'd be interested in hearing where Joe The Plumber does his "research", cause I've heard him say some idiotic things.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:31 pm |
  44. Tammy

    Hasn't 'Joe the not-a-plumber' used up his rediculous 15 minutes of fame?

    This 'Joe' aka 'Joe-I-don't-pay-my-taxes' is a complete utter joke. Joe should go home, go to work and pay his taxes!


    October 30, 2008 at 5:25 pm |
  45. MPalalay (California)

    "Vote for a real American," he (Joe the Plumber) told the cheering crowd, "John McCain."

    All these "real" American..."Real America"...rhetorics emanating from the McCain-Palin camp, and now their latest follower, Joe the Plumber, sound like the makings of a very divisive and exclusionary administration if they are indeed voted to the White House. Are they implying that anyone "different from" and "differing with them" are simply "fake," "not genuine," "inferior," and unqualified"...Americans?

    How about talking about "real" votes come November 4? I just wonder if they will change their language then.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:23 pm |
  46. Cindy

    So, Joe didn't show huh? That is too funny! But hey we all make mistakes. Funny though that every little thing McCain or Palin do is reported on yet Obama and Biden get a free pass. Biden has done gaffe after gaffe and I'm sure Obama's had problems with that teleprompter he can't go without. Yet we never hear these things in the media.


    October 30, 2008 at 5:16 pm |
  47. Roy

    I wonder how much the are gonna pay him to do what he's doing it's beginning to turn into the circus be we're all getting to see if for free.

    October 30, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  48. Mike, Lake Worth, FL.

    Sat it ain't so Joe. WHAT A JOKE! McCain pins his campaign on Joe"the frigging plumber"?!!!. Weak!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 30, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  49. Susan in NC

    Guess we're all paying for Joe's travels these days, huh? Joe the Plumber is a joke!

    October 30, 2008 at 5:06 pm |
  50. Susan

    "Vote for a real American........" That just about sums up McCain's entire campaign. To suggest that some of us are UN-American because we happen to disagree with the few plans he's even given is truly dishonorable and disrespectful of a large groups of Americans. I have a question for you: "Who is John McCain?" Enough hate, enough lies, enough economic woe!

    Obama/Biden for America!

    October 30, 2008 at 5:03 pm |
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