(HEMPSTEAD, N.Y.) - The star of the final presidential debate was Joe Wurzelbacher, aka "Joe the Plumber." John McCain mentioned Wurzelbacher tonight shortly after the debate began, and both he and Obama said his name more than 25 times during the 90-minute debate. How many times did the word Iraq come up? Six. How many times was the word economy used? 16.
So, what makes Joe the Plumber so special? Well, Obama met Wurzelbacher on Sunday, just shortly after landing in Toledo, Ohio. Before heading to his hotel for an intensive two days of debate prep, the campaign organized a quick stop in Holland, Ohio. The plan was for Obama to walk down Shrewsbury Street, knock on doors, and ask people to vote. For all intents and purposes, it was a photo op.
But then Joe came into the picture, a burly, middle-aged guy with a goatee, who approached Obama and asked him if he believes in the American dream. He proceeded to tell Obama that, after working as a plumber for 15 years, he is going to purchase his own business. The catch was that the business was worth more than $250,000 and Joe asked if he would be taxed more under Obama's plan.
"I'm being taxed more and more for fulfilling the American Dream," he said to Obama.
While Obama made several attempts to explain his tax plan, the bottom line was always that Joe would suffer from increased taxes.
"I'm gonna cut taxes a little bit more for the folks who are most in need and for the 5% of the folks who are doing very well - even though they've been working hard and I appreciate that – I just want to make sure they're paying a little bit more in order to pay for those other tax cuts," Obama told Joe.
"It's not that I want to punish your success – I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you – that they've got a chance at success too."
Obama left the neighborhood right after the conversation with Joe, admitting that the conversation was good practice for the debate. Little did he know that this chance encounter was going to be the main flashpoint tonight.