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CPAC: Is Joe the Plumber the new leader of the GOP?

By Jimmy Orr / February 27, 2009

The Conservative Political Action Conference kicked off yesterday in Washington, DC. Joe the Plumber was apparently mobbed by fans. MSNBC featured Plumber's appearance yesterday on at least three programs.

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Is the party of Reagan now the party of Plumber?

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The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) kicked off yesterday in Washington, DC and although MSNBC's Chris Matthews compared it to a Star Trek convention, it really serves this year as more of a soul searching event for Republicans after two back to back shellackings in 2006 and 2008.

GOP stars Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal are both absent from the conference. Palin in Alaska. Jindal at Disney World (perhaps hiding celebrating his well-discussed speech on Tuesday night).

Plumber

Everyone's favorite plumber was there though.

Maybe not everyone's favorite. But make no mistake, those on the left love Joe the Plumber. In fact, Plumber (we've given up on calling him Wurzelbacher) may have more fans on the left than on the right.

He's got his conservative groupies too. Notes Politico's Andy Barr, Plumber received "rock star treatement" yesterday and apparently was mobbed by devotees.

MSNBC

But it was MSNBC (or "MSBS" as Mike Huckabee called the network yesterday) that's giving him the most attention.

Plumber's appearance was discussed and/or lampooned on the shows of Keith Olbermann, David Shuster and Rachel Maddow Thursday. They're eating it up.

Perhaps the strategy is that if Plumber can somehow be painted as the face of the floundering party, the floundering party will continue to flounder. Only more.

Plumber love

Shuster had conservative talk show host Armstrong Williams on his program yesterday and went straight to the point.

"Why should anybody take CPAC seriously when it ... invites Joe the Plumber to be one of the featured speakers? Good grief!" Shuster exclaimed.

Offering up a noodle-limp defense, Armstrong said, "You know, he represents a certain constituency out there..."

Shuster couldn't resist cutting him off.

"Right. He represents those who don't have a proper license with tax liens against them," he said. "Does the Republican Party really want Joe the Plumber to be a role model?"

Let the market decide, Williams responded. Conservatives will figure it out for themselves who they want to listen to.

Shuster's already figured it out.

"Armstrong, it's an easy call, though. CPAC. There are a lot of intellectual conservatives, people who we may have a lot of disagreement over policy issues, but people I respect, who are willing to say it's a huge mistake for conservatives to make Joe the Plumber a featured speaker at their conference!" he said.

Keith

As much as Shuster gets it, Olbermann enjoys it.

"Did CPAC not pay for oxygen this year?" Olbermann laughed. "What went on there?"

Olbermann took delight in noting Plumber's book signing event yesterday resulted in a grand total of five sales and ended after 55 minutes despite having the venue booked for three hours.

He also seemed to enjoy playing a clip of Plumber announcing he might run for office in six years (video below). This means apparently that a Plumber/Palin 2012 ticket is just a dream.

GOP dissenter

At least one Republican though isn't following talking points and is questioning the direction of the party specifically in regard to Plumber's role.

“If you want to get a sense of how unserious and ungrounded most Americans think the Republican Party is, look no further than how conservatives elevate Joe the Plumber as a spokesman," writes Patrick Ruffini on his blog. "The movement has become so gimmick-driven that Wurzelbacher will be a conservative hero long after people have forgotten what his legitimate policy beef with Obama was.

"A movement self-confident in its place in American society would not have made Joe the Plumber a bigger story than he actually was," Ruffini wrote.

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