Joe the Plumber goes to Congress? Why he's a huge underdog.

Joe the Plumber, aka Samuel Wurzelbacher, on Tuesday won the GOP primary for Ohio’s Ninth Congressional District. His next step is to square off against Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur.

Tony Dejak/AP
Republican congressional candidate Samuel Wurzelbacher, who's better known as Joe the Plumber, campaigns on Feb. 24, in Rocky River, Ohio.

Joe the Plumber installed a primary win in Ohio Tuesday. But the full run of the drain may be harder to come by.

The plumber – known to his family as Samuel Wurzelbacher – clinched Ohio’s Ninth District congressional race as a Republican. His next step is to defeat longtime Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who also enjoyed a victory Tuesday, beating Rep. Dennis Kucinich. The Democrats had been forced to campaign against each other after their respective congressional districts were remapped into a single district, which now spans the shore of Lake Erie from Cleveland to Toledo.

Mr. Wurzelbacher became a celebrity in 2008 after he asked presidential candidate Barack Obama what he would do to help small businesses. When a video of the exchange became a viral hit online, he became a symbol for Republicans of economic hardship on Main Street, resulting in campaign stops with Sen. John McCain and then-Gov. Sarah Palin.

Last month, Wurzelbacher’s campaign received an endorsement from onetime Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain. It also benefited from an impressive war chest – spending almost $60,000, six times that of opponent Steve Kraus, a real estate agent, according to Politico.

Wurzelbacher narrowly beat Mr. Kraus, 51 to 48 percent.  

Now, defeating Representative Kaptur will be a more difficult task, says Justin Vaughn, a political scientist at Cleveland State University. The new district swings heavily toward Democrats.

“There’s nothing to suggest that Joe the Plumber will be successful, even if he was running for an open seat,” Professor Vaughn says. “No Republican in their right mind would run in that district.”

Kaptur beat Representative Kucinich by a large margin – 58 to 38 percent, which Vaughn says results from Kucinich’s fading profile in the area as an effective representative who was truly connected to his constituents. Voters, he says, were largely turned off by his connections to celebrities such as Willie Nelson and Sean Penn, both of whom campaigned on his behalf in the past. Also, he could not produce an impressive policy record, which made him vulnerable when compared to Kaptur, who touted her role as the highest-ranking woman on the House Appropriations Committee. She also serves on the House Budget Committee.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.