ABC News’ Bret Hovell Reports: At his first rally after Wednesday night’s presidential debate, John McCain told a noontime crowd in Downingtown Penn., that he had had done well the night before – but there was someone who McCain thought might have done even better.
“My friends, we had a good debate last night,” McCain said. “It was a lot of fun. You know, I thought I did pretty well – the real winner last night was Joe the Plumber!”
The Republican senator was referring to Joe Wurzelbacher, a 34 year-old plumber of 15 years and aspiring business owner. Wurzelbacher met the Obama during a campaign event in Toledo, Ohio Sunday, and asked Obama if his proposed tax plan included tax increases on incomes of more than $250,000. The now infamous exchange between the two men was mentioned by McCain early in Wednesday night’s debate to exemplify differences in the candidates’ economic policies.
“Joe’s the man! He won,” McCain said. “And small business owners won across America. They won because the American people are not going to let Senator Obama raise their taxes in a tough economy. They’re not going to let him do it my friends.”
McCain continued to talk about Joe, mentioning that – he says – Senator Obama told Joe he would “spread the wealth around.”
“He wants government to take Joe’s money and give it to somebody else. His hard earned dollars, we’re not going to stand for that,” McCain said. “American didn’t become the greatest nation on earth by spreading the wealth. We became the greatest nation on earth by creating new wealth.”
McCain also commended the rally’s attendees – there were only about 1,000 of them – for being there to support him, as he said last night. He told them he was proud of them. He alluded to last week’s cable news furor surrounding temperament of his crowds.
“Before I go any further,” McCain said toward the beginning of his remarks, “I’d like to recognize – you know there’s been some comments about people who come to our rallies, I cannot tell you how proud I am of all of you. I cannot tell you how proud I am. Every working man and woman who’s here, every family member.”
One member of the crowd shouted “No Obama!” at the top of her lungs as McCain was launching into the scripted portion of his remarks. McCain took the opportunity to put his foot down about outbursts.
“I need to have a conversation with you for a few minutes here,” McCain said, evoking a little bit of nervous laughter.
McCain repeated perhaps his best line of the debate, reiterating that he was not George Bush.
“If [Obama] wanted to run against George Bush, he should have run four years ago.”
Both McCain and his wife Cindy congratulated the Philadelphia Phillies (Downingtown is a Suburb of Brotherly Love) for clinching National League Pennant last night.
McCain was introduced by Joseph Lieberman, I-CT, who said that McCain’s debate performance was hugely important.
“We turned the corner in the debate last night, didn’t we?” he asked the crowd, who seemed to agree. “We changed the momentum, we’re on the road to victory in Pennsylvania and for all America.”
Lieberman also said that he gets asked in Connecticut how to help John McCain in the tightly contested battleground states.
“People in Connecticut who are for John McCain say to me, ‘Joe, what can we do to help John McCain?’ I say ‘Quickly! Move to Pennsylvania!’