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Joe Again? Say It Ain't So.

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., Oct. 15

Before Wednesday night's final presidential debate, the big question had been whether John McCain would hit Barack Obama with Bill Ayers. Instead, he hit him with Joe the Plumber.

Ayers, the "washed-up terrorist," as McCain called him, had but a bit role; the Republican nominee instead focused on a plumber from Toledo who fears that Obama will make him pay higher taxes.

"Senator Obama was out in Ohio and he had an encounter with a guy who's a plumber. His name is Joe Wurzelbacher," the Republican nominee said at the start of the debate. Turning to Obama, McCain leveled a severe accusation: "What you want to do to Joe the Plumber and millions more like him is have their taxes increased and not be able to realize the American dream of owning their own business."

"Is that what you want to do?" the moderator, CBS's Bob Schieffer, asked Obama.

"That's what Joe believes," McCain maintained.

Obama, the front-runner, suddenly found himself on the defensive on the Joe issue. He sought to clarify "the conversation I had with Joe the Plumber."

Read the whole Sketch

-- Dana Milbank

By Dana Milbank  | October 16, 2008; 3:59 PM ET
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McCain's election campaign has not been running smoothly. The only good thing he's really done in the last six or eight weeks, is to bring Palin onboard. If he'd stood up to the vampires in the media, like Washington Post, they might have found it much harder to posit her as a non-nothing and inexperienced. Such hypocrisy! Unfortunately, McCain has this penchant for forgiving real enemies, but abusing partners and allies.

Posted by: Damocles | October 20, 2008 8:11 AM | Report abuse

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