And the Winner Is... Joe the Plumber

In the competition for fame and recognition, Joe the Plumber may have been the real winner of last night's Presidential debate.

His exchange with Obama last weekend in Ohio was a gift to John McCain, who has finally found in Joe a way to personify the idea that Obama is so liberal that he's really a closet socialist:

"Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?" the plumber asked Obama fearfully, complaining that he was being taxed "more and more for fulfilling the American dream."

"It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance for success too," Obama responded. "My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody. ... I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody.

Most critics have focused on the socialist aura of the phrase "spread the wealth around," and McCain made sure to hammer it home during the debate, mentioning it again and again. It was an effective ploy, although how effective in terms of attracting voters remains to be seen. McCain is counting on the fact that nobody likes to pay more taxes and have the money given to others, especially when there's a recession going on -- except of course for Obama, who noted during the debate, "well, I don't mind paying a little more."

Obama may not mind: his income was pretty good last year. But Joe the Plumber minds very much, as does Joe Six-Pack. It's even possible that Joe Biden minds.

The words "spread the wealth around" have gotten all the attention so far, and rightly so. But when I first heard Obama's exchange with Joe the Plumber I noticed another meaningful phrase: "a chance for success too."