Column: John McCain loses an important constituency

Senator John McCain spent much of the third and final presidential debate insisting that Senator Third debate
Barack Obama’s tax plan, unlike his, would hurt an Ohio man named “Joe the Plumber.” But McCain suffered a major setback in his bid for the presidency when, moments after the debate, Joe the Plumber endorsed Obama.

“I don’t approve of Senator Obama’s tax plan,” Joe the Plumber told the New York Times, “but I love the way he talks about it. He just expresses himself so well.”

One political analyst called it a fatal blow for McCain’s campaign, saying he’d be unable to recover from losing Joe the Plumber’s vote. “It’s over,” proclaimed CNN analyst David Gergen. “It looks like Joe the Plumber has made sure that we’ll soon see Joe the Vice President.”

A Gallup/USA Today poll, taken right after the debate, found that 53 percent of likely voters plan to cast their ballots for Obama, 41 percent for McCain and the remaining 6 percent for Joe the Plumber. “It’s unbelievable,” Gergen said. “He’s in third place and hasn’t spent a dime. He’s beating the pants off Ralph Nader.”

Gergen speculated that the McCain campaign, seeing their numbers drop in national polls, had made a strategic decision to aggressively pursue Joe the Plumber’s vote, believing that gaining a single vote in a pivotal state might help turn the election around. “Unfortunately it backfired on them,” Gergen said. “They expected Joe the Plumber to pull them out of the water, but instead he hit the flusher.”

But a spokesman for John McCain insisted that they hadn’t lost Joe the Plumber’s support. “The New York Times interviewed the wrong Joe the Plumber,” Tucker Bounds said. “It’s yet another example of media bias. We all know that there are thousands of Joe the Plumbers in America. The Joe the Plumber whose specific concerns were addressed by Senator McCain has not revealed whom he’ll vote for. But Senator McCain does have the support of many other Joe the Plumbers.”

According to government records, Joe is the most common name among plumbers in 49 of the 50 U.S. states. The sole exception is California, where it’s Juan. (Juan the Plumber has also endorsed Obama.)

Joe the Plumber, speaking to the New York Times, said that while Obama’s plan would prevent him from buying the business that currently employs him, Obama had scored points with him by announcing, soon after the debate, a three-point plan for plumbers:

(1) He will push for legislation that would make it illegal for plumbing work to be outsourced to India. “If you have a problem with your toilet,” Joe the Plumber said, “you won’t be able to go on the Internet and get advice from Jagdeep the Plumber.”

(2) He will increase taxes for companies that produce do-it-yourself plumbing kits. “I hate do-it-yourself kits,” Joe the Plumber said. “Even when I’m investing in the stock market, I never get myself one of those screw-it-yourself kits.”

(3) He will decrease taxes for companies that produce jeans that do not sag while you’re fixing pipes. “Plumbers are often in an extremely vulnerable position,” Joe the Plumber said. “You won’t believe how many housewives call me just to watch me going under the sink.”

Thanks to the three-point plan, Obama has won a critical endorsement from the Plumbers Association of North America (PANA). But McCain does have support from a smaller group: the Plumbers Association of Lafayette, Indiana (PALIN).

Plumbers for Barack Obama (PBO) has so far raised $10.5 million for the presidential campaign, while Plumbers for John McCain (PJM) has raised $10.50. “We could have raised a lot more,” PJM chairman Bob the Plumber said, “but according to the law, we can’t accept any money from Jagdeep the Plumber.”

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Hilarious! Although they’re more likely to talk to Jue the plumber from Shanghai the way things are going.

  2. Actually, I thought the exchange between Joe and Barack was great. Just like democracy is supposed to be.
    You can watch the whole Joe and Barack exchange here…

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