So after last week’s last presidential debate, I’m sure many people are wondering just who this “Joe the Plumber” McCain and Obama mentioned is.
To start off, Joe’ first name really isn’t Joe. It's Samuel - Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher
Wurzelbacher became a media star after a chance encounter with Obama Oct. 12 during an impromptu campaign stop the Democratic presidential nominee made in the plumber’s Ohio middle class suburban neighborhood. As Obama worked the crowd with a pool camera rolling, the 34-year-old Wurzelbacher engaged the candidate to ask whether his taxes would go up, if the plumbing business he hoped to buy generated income of more than $250,000. When Obama answered that his plan called for tax cuts for the more than 90 percent of Americans who make less than that figure, and that he thought it better to “spread the wealth around,” the McCain campaign and conservative pundits zeroed right in on that turn of phrase.
During the final presidential debate Wednesday night, Joe got his first taste of fame. Wurzelbacher was referenced 26 times during last Wednesday's presidential debate, 21 times by Sen. John McCain.McCain took up Wurzelbacher’s case, arguing to Obama that Joe “wanted to buy the business, but he looked at your tax plan and he saw that he was going to pay much higher taxes” just as he was reaching what McCain called “the American Dream.” During the rest of the debate, “Joe the Plumber” was mentioned more than two dozen times as the candidates argued over whose programs would better help the middle class.
McCain praised Wurzelbacher as the “real winner” of the debate, but the Toledo man might not be so quick to agree. Reporters working on profiles soon discovered that Wurzelbacher didn’t actually have a state or local license to work as a plumber in the Toledo area, and despite Wurzelbacher’s insistence that he didn’t need one, local officials and building inspectors in Toledo insisted he did.
On Friday, those officials said a letter was being mailed to Wurzelbacher’s employer warning him to get into compliance with city codes or face the loss of the company’s license. The twice-divorced single father also admitted in interviews that his present income was “not even close” to the $250,000 he was asking Obama about (Wurzelbacher was making $40,000 a year in 2006, divorce papers indicate), and doesn’t have an immediate plan or the means to buy the plumbing business he currently works for, although he hoped to some day. A quick review of public records also revealed that the man who expressed worry about future taxes owed back taxes to the state of Ohio and had his wages garnished recently for not paying a hospital bill.So Wurzelbacher now has an active lien on his property filed in January 2007, records from the Ohio Department of Taxation show.
Wurzelbacher also discovered how easy it is to make a verbal misstep. While taping an interview with CBS Evening News with anchor Katie Couric on Thursday, Wurzelbacher said he decided to question Obama about his tax plan because he wanted to get a straight answer from the candidate, but that the candidate’s “tap dance” was “almost as good as Sammy Davis, Jr.”, which many commentators on the left took as evidence of, at the least, poor taste.
And as for that unscripted moment that ended up on Fox News, the one at a rally where he questioned Sen. Barack Obama about the American Dream - and whether he'd have to pay higher taxes under Obama's plan?
Seems Joe, who is actually Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, told the conservative Web site familysecuritymatters.org that catching the Democratic presidential candidate off guard "was actually my intent."
"Looks like there's a crack in Joe the Plumber's story," said Bob Mulholland, the Democratic party activist and adviser, after some details of Wurzelbacher's life emerged Thursday.
What else did Americans learn about Wurzelbacher this week after the AP, bloggers, investigators and librarians - and The Chronicle - turned up court documents and birth records?
Among the factoids gleaned from state and county records:
-- He is registered as a Republican, and voted in the state's GOP primary in March, county elections records show. But he was previously registered, dating back to 2007, in the Natural Law Party.
-- He has lived in McCain's home state of Arizona - in both Mesa and Tucson.
-- He lived in GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's home state of Alaska - in North Pole, from September 1992 to July 1993.
And as comic Bill Maher pointed out, in his 15 minutes of fame, Wurzelbacher has already done more interviews than Palin.