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Pepe el Plumero

MIAMI -- You know Joe the Plumber. Now, meet Pepe the Feather Duster.

John McCain's motorcade pulls into the BankUnited Center, the University of Miami basketball arena. His campaign plane had just landed in Miami after a desultory day of campaigning in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. The candidate's spirits leap, however, when he sees a crowd of 10,000 awaiting him, many of them Cuban Americans and virtually all of them very, very loud.

Before he starts his speech, somebody whispers to him, and he scribbles a note to himself. When he gets to the part in his speech about the Ohio plumber who challenges Barack Obama on his tax plan, McCain checks the note he has just written. "Joe the plumber -- or, as they say in Little Havana, Pepe el Plumero," McCain tells the Cuban Americans, struggling over the pronunciation. "That's the last time I try that," he says.

Good thing. First, it's not clear why Joe's Hispanic counterpart would be Pepe and not Jose. Worse, McCain's pronunciation of the Spanish "plomero" -- actually, the more common word is "fotanero" -- makes it sound more like plumero, the Spanish word for feather duster. No matter: the crowd cheers the attempt.

McCain, in turn, is cheered by the boisterous crowd. They wave signs with messages such as "Viva Mac." A band is playing loud horn music before he enters, and the vocalist is singing, "McCain, McCain, donde esta McCain?"

Aqui esta. McCain comes out in an open-collar dress shirt with a windowpane pattern and a pen in his pocket. The crowd, though not Obama size, is many times bigger than those at his rallies during the day on Sunday. "We ought to have all our rallies at this time of night, I'm telling you," McCain says. Members of his press corps do not agree.

By Dana Milbank  | November 3, 2008; 12:35 AM ET
 
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