The campaign between John McCain and Barack Obama now centers on “Joe the Plumber,” writes CBS News

Early in Wednesday night’s final debate between the two candidates, McCain brought up Joe Wurzelbacher, an Ohio plumber who approached Obama at a campaign event last Sunday, to illustrate how the Illinois senator’s tax policy would hurt small businesses.

Wurzelbacher told Obama that his tax plan would prevent him from buying the plumbing business that now employs him. Obama said he plans to raise taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year while cutting taxes for everyone else.

“He wants the government to take Joe’s money and give it to someone else. His hard-earned dollars. We’re not going to stand for that,” McCain said today at an even in Pennsylvania. “America didn’t become the greatest nation on Earth by spreading the wealth. We became the greatest nation on Earth by creating new wealth.”

Obama on Sunday told Wurzelbacher that he wanted to raise taxes on wealthier earners so lower-wage workers could receive a tax cut. He added, “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

Wurzelbacher himself has suddenly become a central figure in the campaign, giving several interviews to the media since last night.

After the debate, he told CBS News anchor Katie Couric that the experience of watching the debate last night was “surreal.”

“Surreal’s a good word to use for it,” Wurzelbacher said on the CBSNews.com Debate Webcast. “It was – you know, I was glad I was able to act as some type of point, you know, to where they could sit there and hammer out what they both think, what they want to say. But ultimately, you know, the important part was the debate.”

On Thursday, he revealed to the media assembled outside his home that he wasn’t a licensed plumber. He said he works for a small plumbing company that does residential work. Because he works for someone else, he doesn’t need a license, he said.

But Wurzelbacher still would need to be a licensed apprentice or journeyman to work in Toledo, and he’s not, said David Golis, manager and residential building official for the Toledo Division of Building Inspection.

Read the full story here.

Peter Fray

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