You may have noticed -- there was a lot of talk about 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 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
Can Joe Wurzelbacher, or as we know him, "Joe the Plumber" from Ohio, change the course of this campaign? Thats one question that was raised at the third presidential debate. Joe or Wurzelbacher is the man who confronts Barack Obama on his plan to raise taxes on people like him. Obama replies that he wants to spread the wealth around. In the third consecutive week in which the headlines of the financial crisis have prompted both candidates to denounce Wall Street greed, the image of those whom Obama would tax higher was suddenly not an investment banker but a plumber.
The conventional wisdom going into the final debate was that the financial meltdown has pretty much finished off John McCains campaign and has made an Obama victory inevitable. The polls -- not just the national tracking polls but those in critical states -- have supported this view unequivocally.
The Democratic Party entered this campaign year with impressive advantages that have been undercut by one surprising development after another -- the protracted and bitter contest for the Democratic nomination, the success of the surge strategy in Iraq, and the $4-a-gallon gasoline, the overgrandiosity of the Obama campaign.
Yet the narrow lead that John McCain had after the convention has vanished (if the tracking polls can be trusted and that's a BIG if!) precisely on the day that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson observed a coagulation of credit that threatened to bring down the economy and, in response, advanced their financial bailout/rescue package.
In the days that followed, voters seemed to be unnerved by McCains impulsiveness and reassured by Obamas calmness. In bad times we alway seem to want to throw the candidate of the in party out and put the candidate of the out party in.
It is obvious that the economic platform of neither candidate was fashioned with anything in mind quite like the situation the nation now faces. Obamas camp of economists, if they knew that we would be facing a recession with the potential of ripening into something more dire, would hardly have recommended raising taxes, even on the evil rich like the deposed Lehman Brothers CEO (a Democratic contributor) or Joe the Plumber (more inclined to Republicans). Nor would they have advocated, absent the demands of the unions which do so much to finance and man Democratic campaigns, opposing the Colombia Free Trade Agreement or renegotiating NAFTA.
The fact is that neither Obama nor McCain knows precisely what he would do upon taking office Jan. 20, and voters may sense that it is naive to expect they should.
Democratic spin artists have dismissed McCains attacks on Obama as distractions amid a possible economic disaster, and I suspect they will be proved right. Yet it remains the case that about half the voters have doubts about Obama.
I salute Joe the Plumber, whether he is licensed or not. (It's like the Democrats never heard of such a thing.) I thank him for smoking out that comment of the Would-Be Socialist King. I had a horrible conversation with an acquaintance yesterday, whom I asked why she was supporting Obama. "I am a dyed-in-the-wool liberal," she said. "Are you a socialist?" I asked. This is a woman from a family of some (though I don't know how much) wealth, a graduate of Madeira and one of the Seven Sisters. All this tells me is that she has unresolved feelings of guilt about the privileges she has enjoyed. I said that it was fine with me if she wanted to "spread the wealth" (as her candidate suggests) with her own money, but she shouldn't presume to spread mine for me. I can and will do that in the way I choose
Only time will tell.
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