Sen. John McCain is tightening his embrace of Joe 'the Plumber' Wurzelbacher by accusing Barack Obama of "smearing" the media's newest populist fixation.
McCain told a rally in Miami:
You may have noticed -- there was a lot of talk about Senator Obama's tax increases and Joe the Plumber. Last weekend, Senator Obama showed up in Joe's driveway to ask for his vote, and Joe asked Senator Obama a tough question. I'm glad he did; I think Senator Obama could use a few more tough questions.
The response from Senator Obama and his campaign yesterday was to attack Joe. People are digging through his personal life and he has TV crews camped out in front of his house. He didn't ask for Senator Obama to come to his house. He wasn't recruited or prompted by our campaign. He just asked a question. And Americans ought to be able to ask Senator Obama tough questions without being smeared and targeted with political attacks.
The problem is that McCain has done just as much, if not more, than Obama to raise Joe's profile in the media -- initially raising his name and then referencing him numerous times in Wednesday's debate, as well as declaring him the debate's winner the next morning.
McCain adviser Matt McDonald said after the debate that Wurzelbacher was not even told in advance that McCain would raise his name during the third debate, and Ben Smith reports that "McCain's aides were cheerfully talking about how Joe would be dominating the morning shows the next day (though they weren't doing his booking)."
McCain even offered Joe a joking apology for the media frenzy during his appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman on Thursday. "Joe, if you're watching, I'm sorry."
More importantly, it's not true that Obama ever "smeared" Joe.
Asked for comment, an Obama camp called the charge of Obama smearing the plumber "made up."
The McCain camp may be hanging their charge on the oft-unscripted Sen. Joe Biden. Appearing on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno Thursday night, Obama's running mate said:
Let me put it this way: I don't know -- the neighborhood I grew up, even the neighborhood I live in now, which is a really nice neighborhood, I don't know many plumbers who are making $250,000 a year and worried about it. We're kind of worried about Joe the fireman, Joe the policeman, Joe the real plumber with a license.
Knocking the fact that Joe the Plumber is not, in fact, a licensed plumber might be a sharp elbow, but it isn't untrue. Or a "smear," as such. Nor was it something Obama himself said, as McCain implies in his prepared remarks.