Presidential Elections often change direction due to factors beyond the control of the competing campaigners. Often, unpredictable events occur, or something beneath the surface "just clicks." No one really plans these events, they just beset candidates for office. Like the infamous Dukakis Tank Ride, Barack Obama's Joe the Plumber Dialogue may have just given the GOP a gift from the gods.
After that delightfully funny tank ride by Democratic Nominee, Michael Dukakis, the Democrats became a lot more careful in how they managed the stage during Presidential Elections. The tank ride was not a planned ambush by the 1988 Bush Senior campaign. It just sort of fell into their laps: like a gift from Santa. It was a deus ex machina that perhaps saved Bush Senior’s campaign.
It wasn’t that “The Duke” was off message, or even particularly offensive. It was just that it changed the internal conversation that people had about Candidate Michael Dukakis. It reminded them of doubts that they harbored about his capabilities as Commander-In-Chief. Seeing the man in a tank made them wonder if he really looked the role.
The meticuously hardened armor, surrounding Senator Barack Obama’s campaign, may have just been penetrated by the fickle scimitar of iniquitous fate. In dealing with the now famous Joe the Plumber, at a campaign stop in Ohio, Senator Obama may have just gone for a Dukakis Tank Ride of his own.
In fairness to the Junior Senator, with the heretofore smoothly run campaign, Joe was not inclined to support Senator Obama’s tax plan from Jump Street. The plumber addressed this angst to the Senator.
"Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?" the plumber asked, complaining that he was being taxed "more and more for fulfilling the American dream."
However, the mettle of a leader isn’t tested, unless that leader can effectively answer the critiques of non-believers. A professional salesman doesn’t start selling until after the first refusal. Obama’s response won’t be winning him any commissions.
"It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance for success too," Obama responded. "My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody ... I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
In an ironic twist of fate, Barack Obama's honesty did the damage. The Senator gaffed by not resorting to more phoniness. He told us the truth, and it sounded suspiciously like “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”
Thus, John McCain mentioned Joe the Plumber eleven times in the Presidential Debate last night. It didn’t look immediately effective. It wasn’t intended to be pretty. It was meant to change the internal conversation that wobbly or undecided voters are now having about Candidate Barack Obama.
It may take awhile to determine if it actually worked. Dramatists consider deus et machine poor form and amateurish playwriting. However, John McCain doesn’t need to brush up his Shakespeare. Ne needs to reframe the economic discussion that is dominating the current phase of the Election of 2008.
GOP Protagonist John McCain may or may not be saved by the late arrival of Joe the Plumber. It depends on how well he handles the final scenes in Act V. However, we have witnessed a late fumble by Senator Obama. John McCain now has to make this into a game changer.
Cross-Posted At: THE MINORITY REPORT