“Joe the Plumber” is back on the national scene, and this time he is looking for more than his duly allotted 15 minutes of fame. “Joe” — aka Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher — has filed papers to run for Congress as a Republican in his home district in northern Ohio.
In October 2008, Wurzelbacher was tossing a football with his son in the front yard of his Ohio home when he was touched by the Fickle Finger of Fate. Democratic candidate Barack Obama was campaigning in the neighborhood and met Wurzelbacher. Wurzelbacher told Obama he hoped to buy a plumbing business and asked whether Obama’s tax plan would increase his taxes and interfere with the American Dream, and Obama’s lengthy answer said, among other things, that he didn’t want to “punish your success” but that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
The moribund campaign of Republican candidate John McCain seized on Obama’s use of “spread the wealth” and McCain mentioned the exchange with “Joe the Plumber” repeatedly in the final presidential debate, raising Wurzelbacher to national prominence. “Joe the Plumber” appeared on TV and at McCain campaign events, and the media and Obama’s supporters put Wurzelbacher under a microscope. Was he a licensed plumber or not? Did he owe taxes? State employees even searched Ohio governmental databases for information on Wurzelbacher, resulting in a mini-scandal.
Now, three years later, “Joe the Plumber” has decided to re-enter the spotlight. He’d better be prepared for searching scrutiny, because he’s likely to receive far more attention than the average, unknown challenger. Every skeleton in Wurzelbacher’s closet will be rattled a few times before voters get the chance to decide they want “Joe the Plumber” to play “Mr. Fix-It” in Washington, D.C.