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Obama Glides, McCain Punches-- Big Winner Is Joe the Plumber!

11/15/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Four and out? A sweep for the Democrats? I expected to sit down tonight and write the same script from the past three encounters: Obama or Biden easily win on points and demeanor, pundits call it a draw anyway, polls mock the pundits by showing an easy win for the Dem. Ho-hum.

But this one at Hofstra was a little different, perhaps because of the seating arrangement, McCain's growing desperation, or due to a more pushy moderator. It was like Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston again -- the glider vs. the puncher -- but without the knockout of Liston.

The big winner: Joe the Plumber.

Joe, can I be your agent? The book and movie deals will be arriving within hours.

Forget Joe Six-Pack. We have a new American icon, who may not need a designated driver on the way home from the soccer game.

And by the way, the average annual pay for a plumber in the U.S. is around $45,000.

The two candidates invoked and evoked Joe the Plumber, even addressed him directly. Obama seemed to be more concerned about speaking to him than remembering why Sarah Palin was a joke as a veep candidate. Handed a golden opportunity to confront this -- he wasn't asked at first if she was qualified, just to say why his veep choice was better -- he simply danced around it. Meanwhile, he let McCain sock Biden -- and for that matter, punch all night without much more than a jab in return.

It was rope-a-dope but without the Ali flurry that destroyed George Foreman. Still, because of his answers on abortion and the Supreme Court choices, and some of the economic and medical issues, he managed to come out okay, possibly even on top. Ali did win many fights on many an off-night.

But forget the instant polls after the debate. The only view anyone will now care about belongs to.... Joe the Plumber. Hey Joe, where ya gonna go? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

UPDATE: AP reached Joe and he still isn't saying who he will vote for. "It's pretty surreal, man, my name being mentioned in a presidential campaign," he said. One report indicated that he has always been a McCain supporter and isn't even registered to vote. Interviewed by Katie Couric this morning he compared Obama to...Sammy Davis Jr. He also said he is against Social Security. A later Toledo Blade report claims he is a registered Republican.

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Greg Mitchell is editor of Editor & Publisher. His new book on Iraq and the media is "So Wrong for So Long." For more on the media and the campaign go to: http://www.eandppub.com