McCain mentioned "Joe the Plumber" almost constantly throughout the final debate -- even tying him into an attack on Obama's health care plan. But the move led to a "deer in the headlights" moment for the Republican.
"Joe, Senator Obama's plan ... If you are out there, my friend, and you have got employees and you have got kids, if you don't get a health care plan that Sen. Obama mandates, he is going to fine you," McCain said.
"I'm happy to talk to you, Joe, too, if you're out there," Obama responded. "Here is your fine: Zero."
McCain interrupted, asking "Zero?" He stayed frozen in the same position, blinking his eyes in confusion, as Obama continued his answer.
"Zero," Obama said. "You won't pay a fine because as I said in our last debate, and I'll repeat John, I exempt small businesses from the requirement for large businesses that can afford to provide health care to their employees who are not doing it. I exempt small businesses from having to pay into a kitty."
Obama then ripped McCain for proposing to tax the health care benefits individuals will receive from their employer -- a winner for him in past debates.
The Washington Post Fact Checker confirmed Obama's response:
McCain was wrong to state that small businessman "Joe the Plumber" would end up paying a fine if he refused to provide his workers with health insurance. Under the Obama plan, small businesses are specifically exempted from a requirement imposed on large companies that they contribute to a national health fund if they fail to make "a meaningful contribution" to their employees' health care costs.