Colin Powell versus Joe the Plumber. Who's more powerful?

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If Joe the Plumber's 15 minutes of fame are over, then someone didn't let him know about it. He doesn't appear to be going away.

In fact, many Republicans are saying - straight faced - that they would rather have Joe the Plumber's endorsement than Colin Powell's backing.

They say that Wurzelbacher (Joe's actual last name) resonates more with "real Americans" and is therefore a stronger ally heading down the final stretch of the campaign.

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McCain's new pal

Certainly the McCain campaign is not kicking Wurzelbacher to the curb. Anything but.

"Joe the Plumber is the average citizen, and Joe the Plumber is now speaking for me and small business people all over America. And they’re becoming aware that spreading ... the wealth around [is] not what small business people want," McCain said on Fox News Sunday.

Palin and Plumber

Singling out a supporter who was holding an "Ed the Dairy Man" sign at a rally in a Roswell, N.M., yesterday, Sarah Palin said Obama's plan is a Socialist solution according to Joe and their new friend Ed.

"Senator Obama said he wants to quote 'spread the wealth.' What that means is he wants government to take your money and dole it out however a politician sees fit," Palin said.

"But Joe the Plumber and Ed the Dairy Man ... think that it sounds more like socialism," she said. "Now is no time to experiment with socialism. To me, our opponent's plans sound more like big government, which is the problem. Bigger government is not the solution."

Plumber polls

So powerful is Joe the Plumber that Rasmussen Reports, a national polling firm, conflated Wurzelbacher and John McCain in their latest poll.

They say McCain's nosedive in the polls could be due to his inability to formulate a clear message on the economy -- something that Joe the Plumber, incredulously, has been able to do.

"It is possible that coverage of Wurzelbacher’s exchange with Obama, spread nationally by YouTube, has helped in that regard: A plurality of voters (48%) believes that McCain or Joe the Plumber better understand their situation better than Obama does.

"Eighty-five percent (85%) of Republicans say either McCain or Joe the Plumber best understands the realities they face. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of Democrats say Obama does. Among those not affiliated with either major party, 50% pick McCain or Joe while 38% name Obama.

"Among voters who earn less than $40,000 annually, 50% say Obama understands their reality better than the others. Fifty-two percent (52%) of those who earn more than $100,000 a year say the same. But, among middle-income Americans, those earning $40,000 to $100,000 annually, 58% say that either McCain or Joe the Plumber best understands their situation. Just 35% say Obama does."

Plumber's friends

And when you attack Joe the Plumber, some supporters say you are attacking them.

Take for instance a National Review article this morning that tells the story of a Colombian immigrant who owns a small construction company in the U.S.

Tito Munoz went to a McCain rally this weekend not so much to show support for the Republican but to take after the media for its treatment of Wurzelbacher.

“I support McCain, but I’ve come to face you guys because I’m disgusted with you guys,” he told reporters. “Why the hell are you going after Joe the Plumber? Joe the Plumber has an idea. He has a future. He wants to be something else. Why is that wrong? Everything is possible in America. I made it. Joe the Plumber could make it even better than me…. I was born in Colombia, but I was made in the U.S.A.

When a reporter defended coverage of Wurzelbacher, Munoz argued that the plumber has received more attention from the mainstream press than Weather Underground founder Bill Ayers, a past supporter of Obama's.

“How come that’s not in the news all the time?” Munoz said. “How come Joe the Plumber is every second? I’m talking about NBC, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN.”

Plumber over Powell

How powerful is Wurzelbacher?

Who knows. He comes across as a likable guy. He's not afraid of the cameras. He seems well-poised despite the national spotlight. And, as detractors note, he's given more interviews than Palin.

He just may be more significant than Powell, says GOP political strategist Ed Rollins.

"Powell's endorsement may make the Washington establishment pause and reflect, but the message of McCain and Joe the Plumber may force ordinary voters to ask some questions:
"How can people who don't pay taxes get tax refunds while those that do, get tax increases?
"Is an Obama presidency a giant step towards liberal socialism and military weakness?
"In this time of severe crisis do we want experience or inexperience?
"Obama is the obvious favorite, but with a major assist from his plumber friend, John McCain may get voters to take another look at him. After a problematic and mistake-prone McCain campaign, that's all anyone can ask."

I'll take Plumber for $500, Wink

Ed Morrissey, at the conservative Hot Air blog takes it a step further, arguing that a Powell endorsement would have had more weight in August with the Russian invasion of Georgia. The public just isn't tuned in to foreign affairs now.

"[Voters are] more interested in economic issues, and I think Joe the Plumber has more resonance than Colin Powell at this point in the election," Morrissey writes.

Not so

It isn't a sweep. Ask 100 people the same thing and you can get 100 different answers. Although GOP political strategist Mike Murphy didn't reference Joe the Plumber, he says Powell's endorsement delivers a "sledgehammer blow" to the McCain candidacy.

"Powell's remarks were an across the board indictment of the McCain campaign," Murphy writes. "He threw a subtly delivered but perfectly targeted series of chops at each of the the major fractures of the shaky McCain campaign; the Palin choice, the dark tone of the campaign, the Helter Skelter antics at the onset of the economic crisis."

Plumber power

With just over two weeks to go before Election Day, it is likely we'll see more of Joe the Plumber than Colin Powell. Powell has said he doesn't want to go out on the campaign trail. Whether a week-old newbie to the national scene can preempt someone with the stature of the former Secretary of State seems unlikely at face value.

But as Rollins writes, "The establishment and the elites don't care about Joe or what he thinks. But many working Americans might, because he reflects their thinking."

Weirder things have happened. Get ready for an interesting two weeks.

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