The Note: The Plumback

Yet the positive signs for Obama are everywhere: "Barack Obama is running even with or ahead of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in support by white voters. If those numbers hold, with a changing electorate, pollsters say Obama will win on Nov. 4," Bloomberg's Hans Nichols reports.

A new Obama ad keeps up the fight on healthcare: "John McCain's health care plan … first we learned he's going to tax health care benefits to pay for part of it. Now the Wall Street Journal reports John McCain would pay for the rest of his health care plan "with major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid."

Coming out of the Hofstra debate, a honed message from McCain: "McCain, campaigning in Pennsylvania, echoed an argument he made at Wednesday's debate that Obama would raise taxes. He declared small businesses the winner of the candidates' matchup at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., saying his economic plan would do more for them," USA Today's David Jackson writes.

Then there's Joe the Plumber. McCain declared him the winner of Wednesday's debate -- but this isn't want anyone had in mind.

"Ironically, the plumber currently has an income level that would make him eligible for Obama's proposed tax cut rather than the tax increase," per ABC's Imaeyen Ibanga and Russell Goldman. "Wurzelbacher said he had a couple of plumbing jobs scheduled for today and hoped he would get more calls before the day was out. He will need the money. Wurzelbacher's new notoriety has brought to light the fact that he owes nearly $1,200 in unpaid taxes."

Maybe not the best choice to build a campaign around: "John McCain's bid to shore up his poll numbers by highlighting 'Joe the plumber' carries with it as many political pitfalls as opportunities," Bloomberg's Ryan J. Donmoyer and Kristin Jensen reports. "Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, the Toledo plumber who criticized the tax proposals of Democratic nominee Barack Obama, owes back taxes, isn't licensed or registered in Ohio and would fare little better under McCain's tax agenda than under Obama's even if his income soared."

"Obama campaign aides fought back, saying that if Mr. Wurzelbacher earns the wages of a typical Ohio plumber, $40,600, and holds a $90,000 mortgage, he would see a tax cut under Sen. Obama's plan of more than $1,000, compared with no tax reduction under Sen. McCain's," Jonathan Weisman and Ilan Brat write in The Wall Street Journal. "If he succeeds in buying the plumbing business where he works, he could see even more tax benefits, including Sen. Obama's proposed elimination of capital-gains taxes for small-business investment, a 50% tax credit to purchase health insurance for employees and a $3,000 tax credit for every new hire over the next two years."

There's more: "His motives for confronting Sen. Barack Obama at a campaign stop in his neighborhood earlier this week are the subject of intense Internet speculation. The city of Toledo is preparing a letter to his employer seeking to determine whether he is violating city codes, and the plumbers union is on his tail," Robert Barnes reports in The Washington Post.

"Joe, if you're watching, I'm sorry," McCain said on Letterman Thursday night.

"Can John McCain catch a break?" ask the Los Angeles Times' Robin Abcarian and P.J. Huffstutter.

Said Wurzelbacher: "I'm kind of like Britney Spears having a headache. . . . Everybody wants to know about it."

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