All about ‘Joe the Plumber’


msnbc hosts and commentators reacted on-air to the final presidential debate of Decision ‘08.

Rachel Maddow
During the first part of the debate, I saw John McCain being quite spirited, aggressive, seeming to enjoy himself.

But before the halfway point, I thought his excitement and eagerness in participating in that sort of the back and forth devolved into a sort of anger and discomfort… a lot of eye-rolling and a tremendous amount of blinking, grimacing and mugging for the camera that he’s going to regret.

He got the zinger of the night when he said “I’m not George Bush,” to Obama. The zinger from Obama was probably against Fox News, not against McCain himself.

But I think the line that someone is going to regret, one that will resonate and will hurt McCain the most is when McCain ridiculed the idea that the life of the mother should be a concern in the abortion debate.

Women everywhere will reflect on that – that they’ll be forced by the government to carry to term and give birth. This will be seared on women’s minds: the government is not going to excuse you, short of death, from giving birth. It’s the extreme pro-abortion position.

Pat Buchanan
I thought Sen. Obama did not engage. He was like a boxer who knew he was winning on rounds and winning on points, and this is the 15th round. He knew all he had to do is avoid getting hit and knocked down.

I think he avoided engagement with McCain who clearly was intense, passionate, and aggressive all-evening long. It was McCain’s best performance – he was intense and ideological, appealing to the base.

What surprised me changes were on the tone and tenor of the campaign. Bob Schieffer went at him directly for using words like “liar” and “terrorist.” McCain was passionate in defending what his campaign has done with Ayers and ACORN, even charging Obama’s campaign with the negative attack ads. I was surprised that Obama didn’t come back strong at all on that.

But when the vice presidential candidate qualifications were pointed out, Obama passed over any effort to criticize or suggest that Sarah Palin wasn’t qualified. And that’s been the thing that’s consumed everybody on TV shows. Obama was gracious, which might have been pretty smart.

I think Obama realizes he’s got a winning formula. He’s saying to himself, “I’ve got this race wrapped up, what I’ve got to avoid is making some mistake and step into a K.O. punch.”

Obama does have this lead going for him. He knows it. To go with the boxing metaphor, he’s being told: “Just stay away from him.” He was super cautious in this final debate, and it tells me he’s trying to run out the clock.  Obama simply has to not mess it up. I think Obama’s calm Zen-like confidence is also impressing people in these rocky times. He was even cooler than he was during the past two debates.

The last two presidential debates, I thought McCain the won the debate and a lot of people disagreed… so it’ll be interesting to see what people think.

Click here to see Rachel and Pat’s live commentary during the debate.

Chris Matthews
I believe that it was a big mistake by John McCain tonight with regards to abortion rights. If it was his goal to win over the Hillary voter, or younger women in Florida or South East Pennsylvania, then what he said is not going to help him.

You can’t belittle the health exception with regard to abortion. You can’t say the exception is “only her possible death.” The health exception is in Roe V. Wade and characterizing it in a diminutive way is going to lose a lot of pro-choice women. 

On another point: Sen. McCain never really did what he promised to do for weeks, questioning Obama about his patriotic impulse with regards to “palling around with terrorist.” If he’s going to use a phrase like the vice presidential candidate has done dramatically on the stump, if they are going to continue talking about Bill Ayres, they have to say what they mean with it.  I don’t think he brought the question of the character and patriotism of Barack Obama.

On the economy, I think McCain has it wrong. The public is not angry. He made a calculation tonight and said to the public, “You’re angry,” about the current economic mess. He said those words a couple of times and I think he did that so he could be angry and be consistent with the public’s moods.

But I think on the economy, the public is scared, worried and depressed. That was captured by Obama tonight when he said, “We’re facing the worst economic challenge since the Great Depression.” He spoke about it alluding to an almost-historic weight on our shoulders now. He’s saying, “It’s not the time to shout out the window.” He may have the tenor right.

I thought it was a narrow victory for Barack Obama. People seem to like his casual performance over the heated intensity of John McCain. This debate has shown the most of McCain’s high intensity, but based on previous debates, that doesn’t seem to be working for the voters.

We’ll see in the hours and days ahead.

Keith Olbermann
I don’t know about you, but I want to vote for this “Joe The Plumber” Guy.

If the Palin Biden match-up at the start of this month was the Joe Sixpack debate, the third and final meeting tonight between Senators Obama and McCain was about the Joe the Plumber.

Senator McCain answered the question of whether he would repeat the most negative attacks of his campaign to Obama’s face by repeating the most negative attacks of his campaign to Obama’s face.Forget the idea heading in that a sit-down format would lead to a chattier, friendlier exchange between the candidates. Tonight’s debate was tough, and it was personal.

And for no one was it  more personal than for Joe Wurzelbacher, henceforth known to this nation as “Joe the Plumber.” Outside Toledo Ohio on Sunday, Mister Wurzelbacher approached Senator Obama to ask him about his tax plan, especially how it relates to small businesses.

Senator McCain spent the entirety of tonight’s debate addressing most of his remarks – on taxes and just about everything else – to Joe the Plumber.

The other big name of the night: William Ayers. Yes, Senator McCain went there. The Republican nominee claimed the tone of this campaign could have been very different if Senator Obama had agreed to his request for a series joint town hall meetings. In other words, Ayers, Acorn and palling around with terrorists: Senator Obama had it coming.

In a campaign that has become about guilt by association, Obama talked about who he actually associates with. Senator McCain, meanwhile, tried to downplay any association between himself President Bush. He did effectively so, saying “I am not President Bush.”

All about 'Joe the Plumber'