Joe the Plumber momentarily became a representation of Middle America for Republicans in 2008 when he confronted Barack Obama in a public debate.
Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher passed away on Sunday at his home in Campbellsport, Wisconsin, about 60 miles north of Milwaukee. Joe the Plumber briefly rose to fame as “Joe the Plumber,” the archetypal American middle-class Everyman, by interjecting himself into the 2008 presidential race in an impromptu nationally televised debate with Barack Obama over taxing small businesses. He was 49.
His wife, Katie Wurzelbacher (Joe the Plumber), claimed that pancreatic cancer problems were to blame.
On Sunday, October 12, 2008, Mr. Wurzelbacher (Joe the Plumber) interrupted a football game he was playing with his son in his front yard to approach Mr. Obama, who was then a United States senator from Illinois, and ask him about his proposal to raise taxes for some small businesses. Mr. Obama was in Toledo, Ohio, campaigning on Shrewsbury Street, in a working-class neighborhood.
Mr. Wurzelbacher (Joe the Plumber) said he was worried about being hit with a bigger tax burden just as he was getting close to the point where he could finally afford to buy a plumbing business, which he claimed would bring in $250,000 a year, during a cordial but largely fruitless five-minute conversation in front of news cameras.
Three days later, during the last presidential debate, Republican candidate Senator John McCain made almost two dozen references to “Joe the Plumber,” as he was known by.
During the closing weeks of the campaign, Mr. Wurzelbacher (Joe the Plumber) rose to the status of a folk hero, especially among McCain backers and conservative commentators who agreed with his assertions that Mr. Obama’s share-the-wealth economic plans were socialist or even communist in nature and went against the American dream. Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, Mr. McCain’s running mate, too joined the fray and joined Mr. Wurzelbacher (Joe the Plumber) on stage at rallies.
By election day, however, the public had found that he was not a licensed plumber (he could only work in Toledo for someone with a master’s license or in outlying districts) and that he owed $1,200 in back taxes, which had damaged his public image as a hulking, bald, iron-jawed John Doe.
Although he briefly considered endorsing Senator McCain, he later referred to him as “the lesser of two evils” on the ballot and refused to say how he actually voted in November.
His wife told him over the phone on Monday, “Let’s still keep that private.
Representative Marcy Kaptur, the Democratic incumbent in Ohio’s 9th Congressional District, defeated Mr. Wurzelbacher (Joe the Plumber) in the Republican primary for the position in 2012. However, he was soundly defeated in the general election, receiving only 23% of the vote to Kaptur’s 73%.
During that campaign, he released a video defending the Second Amendment and blaming gun control for enabling the Ottoman Empire to commit genocide against Armenians in the early 20th century and Nazi Germany to carry out the Holocaust. He claimed that gun laws had taken away the victims’ capacity to defend themselves in both instances.
In 2014, a mass shooting occurred in Isla Vista, California, not far from the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara. In a letter to the parents of the victims, he once more defended the right to bear guns and stated, “As harsh as this sounds — your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.”
Frank and Kay (Bloomfield) Wurzelbacher welcomed Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher into the world on December 3, 1973. His father was a wounded war veteran, while his mother worked as a waitress.
He joined the Air Force after graduating from high school, where he received plumbing training. After being released in 1996, he worked for a telecommunications firm and as a plumber’s assistant.
Profiting from his notoriety following the 2008 election, he appeared in TV ads for digital television, co-authored the book “Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream” with Thomas Tabback, and reported on the Israeli invasion of Gaza for the conservative website PJ Media in 2009. He began working at a Jeep facility in 2014.
He is survived by his wife, Katie Schanen, a son from his first marriage, Samuel Jr., and three children from his second marriage, Samantha Jo, Henry, and Sarah Jo. His first marriage ended in divorce.
Although Mr. Wurzelbacher and Mr. Obama shook hands as they parted ways, he didn’t appear to be satisfied with the candidate’s explanation of how his tax proposal would affect a small plumbing business.
Mr. Obama said that his company’s taxes would not increase if its income fell below $250,000.
Obama continued, “I just want to make sure that everyone who is behind you, that they have a chance at success, too. It’s not that I want to punish your achievement. “In my opinion, everyone will benefit if the economy is favorable for people at all levels.
You’re going to be better off if you own a plumbing business, he said. Since everyone is currently experiencing financial hardship, business is terrible for everyone. However, if you have a large number of paying clients, I believe that spreading the wealth around is good for everyone.
Mr. Wurzelbacher remained unconvinced.
He would again add, “I can choose who I want to donate my money to. That isn’t living the American dream.
Ms. Wurzelbacher said on Monday that the interaction between her husband and Mr. Obama in 2008 was entirely unplanned, not contrived by Republican strategists or anybody else and that a neighbor down the street had really planned Mr. Obama’s appearance in the neighborhood.
She claimed that everything was coincidental. The fact that a single query catapulted him into the public eye never ceased to astonish him.