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Opinion: Does Joe the Congressman sound better than Joe the Plumber?

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Of course, you remember Joe the Plumber.

He’s that T-shirt-clad Everyman who lives on an Ohio cul-de-sac and forthrightly confronted a campaigning Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential contest about the Democrat’s crippling small business tax policies. (See video above.)

During the course of their taped street discussion, Joe’s questions prompted Obama to utter the accidentally revealing words ‘spread the wealth,’ which set off socialist alarm bells that can still be heard in conservative quarters.

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Republican candidate John McCain mentioned ‘Joe the Plumber’ several times in an ensuing debate in New York and turned Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher into a passing political icon that changed the course of the worker’s life.

Since then, Joe has been a globe-trotting correspondent for conservative publications, a celebrity speaker and ‘tea party’ worker.

And now -- guess what? -- Toledo Republicans are touting him as the 2012 challenger to Democrat Marcy Kaptur, the longest-serving woman in Congress (14 terms).

Joe says, yup, he’s thinking about it.

The chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, Jon Stainbrook, cites “high-level interest in the national Republican Party” in a Wurzelbacher campaign.

With Joe’s broad tea party ties, it could become one of those symbolic races that draws donors from across the country.

Of course, what really matters is voter interest in Ohio’s Ninth.

Such a challenge would surely be suicidal in Kaptur’s heavily Democratic district that hasn’t seen a GOP representative since Ronald Reagan was fighting Jimmy Carter’s recession.

Oh, but wait!

Ohio is losing a pair of House seats following last year’s census. And Buckeye voters were so happy with Obama’s first two years that they not only replaced Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland with former House member John Kasich, they turned the Legislature over to the GOP too.

As it turns out, those are the folks drawing the new districts. Maybe they’ll help Joe out. And help Kaptur to join Lucas County’s 10.5% unemployment lines.

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-- Andrew Malcolm

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