Adieu, For Now, To Campaign Characters

The 2008 presidential campaign introduced the public to a hockey mom, Amtrak Joe, a maverick and "The One." But it also brought to the fore some others such as Joe the Plumber.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

On this Election Day, we thought we'd take a moment to remember the campaign as drama with characters that stand for something bigger than themselves such as...

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska; Republican Vice Presidential Candidate): I was just your average hockey Mom.

BLOCK: Sarah Palin, not just Alaska's governor, but a mom. And a very specific kind of mom, the kind she called a pitbull with lipstick. Palin's counterpart on the Democratic side also has an alter ego.

Senator JOE BIDEN (Democrat, Delaware; Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate): I commute 250 miles a day every day that the Senate's in session, and I'm able to take Amtrak.

BLOCK: Amtrak Joe Biden, the commuter on the little federally subsidized engine that could. Now, at the top of the Republican ticket was the campaign character with a stage name right out of the Old West.

(Soundbite of them tune to TV show "Maverick")

Unidentified Singers: Who is the tall dark stranger there? Maverick is the name.

BLOCK: The TV show from the '50s and '60s perhaps offered John McCain a character he could believe in. As the theme song says, luck is his companion, gambling is his game. As for Barack Obama, we couldn't quite settle on a character for him. The community organizer, or as the McCain camp like to call him, "The One." But there have been some other characters, voters who won walk-on parts in this presidential drama.

Governor PALIN: Joe Six-Pack.

BLOCK: At first, Sarah Palin stuck with the old every man classic, talking about Joe Six-Pack. Then enter stage right, Samuel "Joe" Wurzelbacher.

(Soundbite of Obama campaign appearance, Holland, Ohio)

Mr. SAMUEL JOE WURZELBACHER (Plumber): I'm getting ready to buy a company...

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Democratic Presidential Candidate): Yeah?

Mr. WURZELBACHER: That makes two hundred - no, two hundred and fifty, two hundred and seventy, eighty thousand dollars a year.

Senator OBAMA: All right.

Mr. WURZELBACHER: Your new tax plan is going to tax me more.

BLOCK: It took almost no time before Joe the Plumber was a recurring character in a presidential debate, a slogan at McCain campaign rallies, a surrogate for the Republicans.

Mr. WURZELBACHER: Well, I'm just glad I could be used to get some points across, you know. Hopefully it makes some other Americans go out and really look into the issues and find out for themselves.

BLOCK: And if you think Joe's time in the spotlight ends today, don't be so sure. Last week came the news that Joe has signed with a PR and management company in Nashville. There's talk of corporate sponsorships, a book, and a country music record deal.

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