NPR logo

Adieu, For Now, To Campaign Characters

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Adieu, For Now, To Campaign Characters

Election 2008

Adieu, For Now, To Campaign Characters

Adieu, For Now, To Campaign Characters

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

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.


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.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.