Opinion: Plumber Joe Wurzelbacher’s entire video chat with Barack Obama


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In the vice presidential debate months ago -- it just seems that way -- we had Joe Six-Pack.

Now, the country knows Joe Wurzelbacher.

He’s the balded plumber in the tight Toledo T-shirt who engaged Barack Obama in a six-minute conversation Sunday about the freshman senator’s small-business tax that would hit Joe’s about-to-be-business harder. Obama patiently explained how Joe might end up paying more on what he made over $250,000 but that was to help the people who weren’t making that much.


Since Joe just came up from that lower income area, he did not seem fully convinced.

Joe kept talking about being a foreman and chasing the American dream, but he didn’t really get the higher tax part because it seemed to penalize his hard work the more successful he became.

Joe’s name -- his first name anyway -- came up 26 times in last night’s presidential debate, mostly at the instigation of Sen. John McCain, who sees Joe (there, that’s eight Joes -- nine -- here already) as a symbol of upwardly-mobile Americans who would be taxed more under an Obama administration and which, McCain says, would be the worst thing to do in tough economic times. Even if your name’s not Joe (ten).

Joe (eleven) says he always wanted to engage a politician in a substantive discussion and get them to stop toe-tapping all-around an issue, kinda like stopping a stubborn leaking pipe. Joe (twelve) says he still feels he got a tap-dance, but now he’s also got about 13 minutes of fame left. If you need more on Joe (thirteen), our colleague Robin Abcarian has it here.

The entire polite conversation between Obama and Wurzelbacher was caught on tape by ABC News. It is actually rather unusual for a presidential candidate, whose most precious commodity is each day’s 1,440 minutes, to spend six of them on one possible voter, even with a network camera obviously rolling nearby.

Since American political protocol says a candidate shouldn’t be the one to break off a conversation with a voter, usually one campaign aide is assigned the duty to politely end such chats after one or two minutes by interrupting with a ‘We really must be going, sir.’ But not this time.

Obama, who picked Joe (fourteen) out of the crowd himself. may come to regret spending those six minutes on Joe (fifteen), even if Joe (sixteen) turns out to be a McCain campaign plant. (You can bet folks are checking him out overnight and we may soon learn he’s pregnant. No, wait, better yet to discredit him, his ex-girlfriend got a temporary restraining order.)


There is a 100% chance you are going to hear some more about Joe in the campaign’s remaining days. So you might as well watch the entire video exchange for yourself now so you know what it’s all about in case you only see pieces later. It’s viewable right here.

Seventeen Joes (eighteen) in 12 paragraphs. Not a record. But not bad.

--Andrew Malcolm

Even if your name isn’t Joe (nineteen), you can get instant alerts on all Ticket items flashed straight to your cell registering here at Twitter.