intro: While the nation trained its attention on the top of the ticket in Ohio last night for the fierce and razor-thin battle between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, a similarly dramatic race played out two notches down the ballot.
Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, that working-class icon of the 2008 presidential campaign, swapped his double-ended wrenches for congressional campaign yard signs and snagged the GOP nomination in Ohio's 9th Congressional District Tuesday night.
Despite outspending his opponent six to one, Wurzelbacher only narrowly won the Republican race with 51 percent of Toledo-area residents picking "Joe the Plumber" compared with the 48 percent who chose Steve Kraus, an auctioneer and real estate agent.
Wurzelbacher not only had a massive monetary advantage but also scored the backing of big name Republicans, such as Herman Cain, and appeared at rallies with both Romney and Santorum.
But while money and endorsements worked in his favor in the GOP primary, "Joe the Plumber" faces nearly insurmountable odds in the general election. He will face off against 15-term Democratic incumbent Rep. Marcy Kaptur – who defeated longtime Rep. Dennis Kucinich in a brutal Democratic primary - in a district that already leans Democrat.
"Joe the Plumber" became the face of middle-class America in 2008 after he asked then-candidate Barack Obama about the effect his tax plan would have on small businesses.
"If I had known then what I know now, I might have kept my mouth shut," Wurzelbacher wrote on his campaign website. "I was then promptly thrown into the political world of lies, distortion and half-truths."
"Joe the Plumber" is not the only 2008 campaign icon who is dipping a toe into that political world again this cycle. Click through to find out what the likes of Obama Girl, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and other famous names of 2008 are up to this time around.
quicklist:1 title: Obama Girl text:
The Obama Girl is back, but the sexy, singing YouTube sensation who had "a crush on Obama" in 2008 is less smitten with President Obama than she was with candidate Obama.
Obama Girl actress Amber Lee Ettinger said her support for the president has faded in the past four years, but her Obama Girl character will always be a fan of her man.
"I always will feel like I have a connection to him, but this time around I am still undecided about who I will vote for," Ettinger told ABC News.
Ettinger, who recently moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, said her Obama Girl gig has upped her name recognition but has also closed some doors.
"If you're on YouTube, some people don't see you as an actress," she said.
In a 2010 interview, Ettinger said she would give Obama a B-minus because he was "doing OK" as president. The YouTube sensation said she would have liked to see Obama focus more on jobs and the economy instead of health care, which she told the New York Post was "definitely a distraction because of the economy being as bad as it is."
Despite Ettinger's skepticism, Obama Girl has already re-emerged in 2012. In a video released last month, Obama Girl appears as a spoofed version of the lead character in "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and sabotages the GOP candidates' presidential campaigns.
Obama Girl cranks up her sex appeal to taunt Obama in a "Grease"-style spoof of "You're the One That I Want." "You wanna my vote?" she asks in the video. "My vote you need, or change indeed."
Ettinger said there's "definitely" more to come on the YouTube front for the 2012 campaign.
"As this election starts heating up all the excitement has started to grow again," Ettinger said. "People kind of want to see what [Obama Girl] is up to."media: 15634132 caption: use
quicklist: 2 title: Rielle Hunter text: The sex scandal that dominated national politics during the last presidential campaign cycle is capturing the spotlight again this year.
The sex tape that John Edwards, a 2008 contender for the Democratic nomination, and his mistress Rielle Hunter made during his bid for the White House has finally been destroyed after a drawn-out court battle, ABC's James Hill reports.
While the story of Hunter and Edwards' affair did not break until after Edwards dropped out of the 2008 presidential race, the juicy details of their years-long relationship were splashed across headlines throughout the campaign season.
The lawsuits that followed – Hunter suing to get the sex tape back from Edwards' former aide, federal prosecutors charging Edwards with felonies for campaign finance frauds – are just now being resolved and are threatening to again draw attention amid a presidential election.
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quicklist: 3 title: The Rev. Jeremiah Wright text:
In 2008, he was the character who threatened to topple Obama's lead over Hillary Clinton in the bitter Democratic presidential primary, but the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has excluded himself from the political spotlight this time.
Wright, Obama's pastor for more than 20 years, became the focal point for Obama's critics after ABC broke the story that Wright had preached that America was to blame for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and told his congregation, "God Damn America."
The Obama family left the church in May 2008 amid the Democratic primary, after months of controversy from Wright's comments.
Wright retired as the senior pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ in late 2008 and has kept a relatively low profile since. He still occasionally preaches at his old church and travels the country giving sermons and speeches.
Wright was in Washington, D.C., last month to give a sermon at Howard University to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day. During the sermon, Wright's plea that worshipers plow forward through tough times seemed to echo the calls of his former parishioner-turned-president.
"This ain't no short-term battle, no brief skirmish. This is a protracted war," he said, according to the Washington Post. "Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out."media: 15531333 caption: use