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Column: Not Even Joe The Plumber Can Fix This Campaign

This story was written by Asher Smith, Emory Wheel

Can someone please find out exactly what sort of apology John McCain wants from Rep. John Lewis so that we can all move forward?The third debate is over, and the story was not Bill Ayers, attack ads or comments by Lewis that compared the tone of the McCain campaign to something out of George Wallaces Alabama. The story was not the Supreme Court, abortion or present votes in the Illinois state senate. And the story was most definitely not (for once) Gov. Sarah Palin.The story was Joe the Plumber.Or, to be more specific, the story was what it has been ever since the campaign kicked off and what has dominated the mind of the electorate for the past month or so. The story was the economy, and how that economy would affect individuals in the mold of the now-famous plumber.Thus, while the networks were gleefully replaying clips of John McCains odd declaration (If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.) and comparing the two candidates' responses to a surprising question on abortion debate like its 1992! what most voters in particular will take from the debate was what the two candidates had to say about what actually affects them. They care, justifiably enough, about the issues that affect their own bank accounts and their own familys welfare.So when McCain dolefully inserted an attack line about Bill Ayers at the end of a question-and-answer cycle in the middle of the debate, it came off not as a genuine critique but as an insult to the people spending their time to pay attention to the debate, as a blatant attempt to take them for gullible fools.This was most obvious when Bob Schieffer asked the two candidates to, in effect, either disavow or claim ownership of their negative campaign tactics. While this ignited a predictable tit-for-tat argument over who was being the most disingenuous, it produced the most unintentionally revealing moment of any of the debates.Obama led off, taking McCain to task for not reining in his running mate after she said Obama pals around with terrorists." Obama also called out McCain's supporters, one of whom loudly, conspicuously and without admonishment demanded Obamas execution at a rally caught on film.McCain had to respond and he did so by arguing that Obama was guilty of the same. With much umbrage, McCain accused the Obama camp of distorting his positions on health care during the Arizona Cardinals upset of the Cowboys. And not just health care stem cell research, too. And immigration.Yet this is exactly the difference between the two campaigns. Obama and the Democrats attack McCain based on the issues that have a direct impact on Joe the Plumber's welfare, and the Republicans cry foul.And then when the GOP takes the attack to Obama, they choose to wage battle not on the issues they claim to care about but on trivialities.Obama was prepared for this sequence of events, and that preparedness is what has made so many normally moderate and Republican voters comfortable about entrusting him with the presidency. Obama parried the attack by expressing a willingness to take whatever the Republicans throw at him over the next three weeks, so long as it doesnt result in four years of ineffective and damaging economic policies.Despite the fact that McCain got in some well-rehearsed remarks, there was practically no point at which he came off as the more knowledgeable and better-equipped candidate. Obama proved himself the master of the true issues of the 2008 election, whether it be in his sensible explanation of ACORN; or during that strange, traipsing interlude about school vouchers, when Obama was able to correct McCain on the details of the charter school system supported by the Washington D.C. mayor; or during the much more relevant discussion about the future of American energy policy.So, with the debates over, if you want to know who won, ask yourself a simple question: If soewhere in Ohio Joe the Plumber actually was watching, what do you think made more of an impact? Was it Obamas detail-oriented defense of his economic policies, or McCains sheepish attempts to steer the discussion to anything else?