Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, who briefly became “Joe the Plumber,” the metaphorical American middle-class Everyman, by injecting himself into the 2008 presidential campaign in an impromptu nationally-televised face-off with Barack Obama over taxing small businesses, died on Sunday at his home in Campbellsport, Wis., about 60 miles north of Milwaukee. He was 49.
The cause was complications of pancreatic cancer, his wife, Katie Wurzelbacher, said.
Mr. Obama, then a United States senator from Illinois, was campaigning on Shrewsbury Street, in a working-class neighborhood of Toledo, Ohio, on Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008, when Mr. Wurzelbacher interrupted a football catch with his son in his front yard to mosey over and ask the Democratic nominee about his proposed tax increase for some small businesses.
During a cordial but largely inconclusive five-minute colloquy in front of news cameras, Mr. Wurzelbacher said he was concerned about being subjected to a bigger tax bite just as he was approaching the point where he could finally afford to buy a plumbing business, which he said would generate an income of $250,000 a year.
Three days later, “Joe the Plumber,” as he was popularized by Mr. Obama’s Republican rival, Senator John McCain, was invoked some two dozen times during the final debate of the presidential campaign.