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With US Elections Near, 'Joe the Plumber' Enters Political Pipeline

Ohio man becomes an example used by McCain to attack Obama on his tax plan and spreading wealth around. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Wednesday's presidential debate was the third and last between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain. But on Thursday they both attended a yearly political tradition in New York, a dinner to raise money for Catholic charities.

The first to speak was Senator McCain, who is fighting from behind in most national polls.

JOHN McCAIN: "Events are moving fast in my campaign, and yes, it's true that this morning I've dismissed my entire team of senior advisers. All of their positions will now be held by a man named Joe the Plumber."

BARACK OBAMA: "Now recently one of John's advisers told the Daily News that if we keep talking about the economy, McCain's going to lose. So tonight I'd like to talk about the economy."

The jokes were a change from the final ninety-minute debate the night before on the economy and other domestic issues. Yet the debate produced an unexpected star who was not even there.

A working man named Joe Wurzelbacher met Barack Obama earlier in the week during a campaign stop in Toledo, Ohio. He told Senator Obama that he was getting ready to buy a company and was concerned that his taxes would increase under the senator's tax plan.

John McCain used "Joe the Plumber" as an example to attack Senator Obama's proposals.

JOHN McCAIN: "Joe, I want to tell you, I will not only help you buy that business that you worked your whole life for and I will keep your taxes low and I will provide available and affordable health care for you and your employees. And I will not stand for a tax increase on small business income."

Barack Obama would raise taxes on earnings above two hundred fifty thousand dollars a year. But he said ninety-eight percent of small businesses make less than that.

He talked about Joe the Plumber:

BARACK OBAMA: "What I essentially said to him was, five years ago, when you were not in a position to buy your business, you needed a tax cut then. And what I want to do is to make sure that the plumber, the nurse, the firefighter, the teacher, the young entrepreneur who does not yet have money, I want to give them a tax break now. And that requires us to make some important choices."

Both candidates looked into the camera and addressed Joe the Plumber directly. His name was used more than twenty times.

But with sudden fame came news that he is not a licensed plumber and that he owed the state of Ohio more than one thousand dollars in back taxes. Also, it was not clear that his taxes would increase under the Obama plan.

Since the debate, though, Senator McCain has talked about something else his opponent said to Joe Wurzelbacher. Senator Obama said, "I think that when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody." Senator McCain says spreading the wealth means class warfare.

Barack Obama argues that John McCain would continue the economic policies of President Bush.

The Democrat is campaigning heavily in states that voted Republican in recent presidential elections but which he has a chance to win. These include Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado.

John McCain is working on larger states like Florida and Ohio that voted for President Bush. Opinion polls show that both of those states could go either way on November fourth.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. For more political news, go to or VOA's election site, I'm Steve Ember.