He’s an unlicensed and unregistered employee of a small plumbing and heating company in suburban Toledo, Ohio, who was mentioned 26 times during the 90-minute presidential debate — the war in Iraq received only six mentions. Go figure!
Before the debate was even finished, three local television stations had parked live satellite trucks outside Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher’s home on Shrewsbury Street in Holland, Ohio, and the networks were rushing to interview him.
Overnight, Joe the Plumber became a national celebrity.
Mr. Wurzelbacher is a 34-year-old plumber’s assistant and a registered Republican who thinks Barack Obama “can tap dance – almost as good as Sammy Davis Jr.”
As Mr. Wurzelbacher watched his neighbours fawn over the candidate, he fumed.
“I didn’t think they were asking him tough enough questions,” he said on Thursday.
“So, I thought, you know, I’ll go over there. I’ve always wanted to ask one of these guys a question and really corner them.”
He shook hands with Mr. Obama and told him he wants to buy the business he works for, adding its income — $250,000 to $280,000 a year — would qualify for a tax hike under the Democratic candidate’s election proposals.
“Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn’t it?” he asked. Mr. Obama told him, “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.”
“Because you’re successful, you have to pay more than everybody else?” Mr. Wurzelbacher said on Thursday. “That’s a socialist view and it’s incredibly wrong.”
But Joe the plumber also acknowledged he earns substantially less than $250,000 ($40,000) which would make Joe eligible under Obama’s plan for a tax cut!
“It’s pretty surreal, man, my name being mentioned in a presidential campaign,” Mr. Wurzelbacher said on Thursday.
When he went to a gym on Thursday morning he returned home to find 21 reporters camped out in his driveway, and newspaper columnists and Internet bloggers across the country earnestly debating the impact Joe the Plumber will have on the November 4 election.
Obama’s campaign took advantage of Mr. Wurzelbacher’s sudden popularity to buy a Google search ad linking Internet users to a Joe The Plumber’s Tax Cut Web site, which has a calculator they can use to work out their tax cuts under an Obama administration.
After the Washington Post reported it was unable to find a listing for Mr. Wurzelbacher in the database of the Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board, the local newspaper, the Toledo Blade, reported Joe the Plumber is an unlicensed employee of Newell Plumbing & Heating.
He is not registered to work as a plumber in Ohio.
The newspaper also reported Mr. Wurzelbacher had a lien against him by the Ohio Department of Taxation in January, 2007, for failing to pay $1,183 in property taxes.
When the president of the Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors National Association in Washington issued a press release applauding Joe the Plumber for helping small business owners play a role in the debate on the nation’s economic future, the business manager of the Toledo local of the United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters & Service Mechanics issued a statement complaining Joe the Plumber hadn’t even undergone apprenticeship training. “When you have guys going out there with no training whatsoever, it’s a little disreputable to start with,” union boss Tom Joseph told the Toledo Blade.
“We’re the real Joe the Plumber,” he added, noting his union backs Mr. Obama.
“I’m kind of like Britney Spears having a headache,” Mr. Wurzelbacher said on Thursday.
“Everybody wants to know about it.”