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The Joe The Plumber Debate: McCain Scores and “Senator Government” Stumbles

Wednesday, October 15, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Thank you, Joe W., America’s plumber, wherever you are. He must be a Browns fan.

McCain scored big with the Joe the plumber exchanges, and with the campaign tactics exchange. Obama looked angry and stumbled repeatedly as he tried to cope with what he really told Joe the plumber –guaranteeing the replay of the clip again and again and underscoring Senator Obama’s flexibility when it comes to facts– and with what John Lewis said. Obama’s answer on ACORN was a jaw dropper and opens the door to the MSM, as does the Ayers exchange. McCain drove this home without going overboard. Repeatedly returning to Joe the Plumber was key for McCain, and by the last half hour Obama was petulantly telling Joe what the “right thing to do by his employees” was. John McCain then spoke directly to Joe and put a bright line around Obama’s “spread the wealth” line, and the “fundamental difference” between the campaigns. When Senator McCain slipped and called Senator Obama “Senator Government,” he scored when he didn’t even intend to. That’s the sort of thing that marks a great debate for McCain, when even his verbal flub advances the key message.

McCain accomplished more in just the first half of the debate than he did in the first two debates total, and the second half was just as good for him. “Spread the wealth” is now the Obama brand, and that can move the polls. So too can the drilling exchange (“I so admire Senator Obama’s eloquence.”) Senator McCain was animated and informed through-out, and Sebator Obama on the defensive on many occasions, including the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act.” Catholic voters watching this exchange could not be comfortable with the Obama dodges. “Another example of the eloquence of Senator Obama,” countered McCain. “That’s the extreme pro-abortion position in America,” McCain replied to Obama’s winding explanation.

Obama’s mastery of his rote talking points is impressive, but they failed him on key exchanges tonight. If the McCain campaign produces a Joe the Plumber ad, and marries it to the Obama/Hoover jab it can turn this debate on the economy while keeping a focus on Obama’s judgment when it comes to ACORN, Ayers and the rest of Senator Obama’s associates. A very good night for John McCain overall. Obama had a chance to end the campaign tonight, but just the opposite happened. Obama was in the prevent defense mode, and McCain moved the ball a long way down the field.

Thanks to Joe the Plumber, and a brief moment of Obama candor along a rope line in Ohio.

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