Whatever Happened To Joe The Plumber?

Past presidential elections may seem tame compared to the mayhem leading up to the 2016 vote, but back in 2008, the campaigns did unexpectedly propel an "average Joe" into the national spotlight. 

Nope, we're not talking about Joe Biden (although he's pretty cool). We're referring to Ohio's very own "Joe the Plumber," a.k.a. Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher. His big break began when he asked Democratic candidate Barack Obama about his tax policy plan for small businesses during a campaign stop. Wurzelbacher mentioned that he wanted to buy a plumbing business.

Obama's response included the phrase "spread the wealth around," which Republicans seized on as an indication that Obama had socialist leanings. GOP presidential hopeful John McCain embraced Wurzelbacher as a shining example of the struggling American small businessman. And maybe because the name Wurzelbacher has a lot of syllables, the nickname "Joe the Plumber" stuck. When Obama and McCain met in their next debate, Joe the Plumber's identity was "invoked 23 times," reported ABC News.

With his new-found notoriety, Joe made the rounds as a vocal critic of Obama's tax plan and an avid supporter of McCain and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. 

So, what's ol' Joe been up to since he found himself at the center (for at least five minutes) of a historic race for the White House? Quite a bit. Check it out.

He did some weird infomercials

Toward the end of 2008, Joe starred in infomercials for VelocityStore.com. In the ads, he explains the switch from analog to digital television and encourages viewers to use the company's products. 

Intrigued? (Fine, we won't judge.) Check out the first spot for yourself here, but be forewarned, it features a heavy dose of monotone. Another spot stars Joe explaining how to install a DTV converter.

In 2009, he appeared in the video above in which (we think?) he angrily advocates for the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service. This one is a bit more impassioned, albeit ultimately ineffective considering the IRS is still very much intact. But perhaps the real reason Joe's so mad about taxes is because he once got slapped with a lien judgment for not paying them. Granted, those were Ohio state income taxes, but maybe Joe has another 1-900 number that will magically get rid of those, too. (He doesn't. Pay your taxes, Ohioans.)   

He worked as a war correspondent

After the 2008 election, Joe apparently discovered a real affinity for appearing in front of the camera. On top of his blossoming infomercial career, the New York Daily News reported in 2009 that he was heading to Israel as a war correspondent for pjtv.com (a conservative website). His motivation? He wanted to "let Israel's 'Average Joes' share their story." 

Want more of Joe the foreign correspondent? Time has a photo gallery of his adventures abroad.

He may have pursued a record deal

Plumber, spokesman, war correspondent... It only made sense that Joe venture into music at some point. According to a 2008 piece in Politico, Joe meteoric rise required him to partner with a booking agent and PR firm to field his myriad requests. One such rumored entreaty? A possible record deal with a "major label." Oh boy.

What? You weren't aware that Joe was a musician? Well, he wasn't, really. His PR firm admitted he wasn't that experienced but insisted he "knocks around on guitar," telling Politico, "He's a complicated guy with a very dynamic personality... He can sing and obviously has a strong political point of view." Well, if that's all it takes, Nashville, here we come.

Said record deal with major label never came to fruition, so Joe was never able to plumb the depths of his supposed musical talent.

He wrote a book

Joe the Plumber quickly became Joe the Author with the publication of his book, Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream, co-written with novelist Thomas N. Tabback and released in December 2008. The Washington Post attended a book-signing in D.C. in February 2009. According to the paper, Joe sold five copies and spoke to about 11 people.

According to The Guardian, Joe said he intentionally chose a small firm to publish his book, turning down more lucrative offers to help "spread the wealth." No word on whether any wealth was actually spread by this one. "You know I will get behind something solid, but I won't get behind fluff," he said. "I won't cash in, and when people do read the book they will figure out that I didn't cash in. At least I hope they figure that out."

It's safe to say, people figured it out, Joe. 

He amassed a big social media following

In an age of incessant presidential tweeting, it should probably come as no surprise that Joe has been expressing his beliefs willy-nilly all over the web.

Even though Joe entered the spotlight nearly ten years ago, he still attracts a hefty social media following. He's amassed more than 800,000 followers on his official Facebook page, where he posts a lot of (hmm, what's the right word?) incendiary content. What we mean is, enter at your own risk.

According to his page, his interests including "Doing my best to get AMERICANS to hold our elected official ACCOUNTABLE!!" and "Hunting, spending time with his son, helping politicians hear the people." 

Fun fact: he also "likes" his own profile pic.

He quit the Republican party

By June 2009, Joe had reportedly had enough of the party that thrust him into the media spotlight and severed ties with the GOP. His reasoning? According to a TIME magazine article (via The Huffington Post), he was sick of "GOP overspending." 

This didn't stop him from later running on the Republican ticket, but we'll get to that.

He turned on McCain

In addition to leaving the GOP behind, Joe eventually had some not-so-kind things to say about McCain, the senator who was largely responsible for his notoriety.

After hearing Joe lambast McCain and Palin at an event in February 2010, a reporter for Pennsylvania Public Radio asked why he had such critical things to say about his former friend. Joe replied, "I don't owe him s**t. He really screwed my life up, is how I look at it... McCain was trying to use me. I happened to be the face of middle Americans. It was a ploy."

Shockingly, Joe shared some comparatively positive comments about Obama with the public radio reporter: "I think his ideology is un-American, but he's one of the more honest politicians. At least he told us what he wanted to do." 

But lest you think Joe has shifted to the left, he told Reuters in 2016 that the Obama administration was a "miserable failure."

He made controversial statements...

Joe has made a number of highly controversial statements over the years. In 2012, when he was running for Congress (more on that in a bit), Joe released a pro-gun rights campaign video which seemed to draw a straight line between gun control and the Holocaust. In the video, he says, "In 1939, Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945, six million Jews and seven million others unable to defend themselves were exterminated... I love America" 

Public backlash was loud and swift, but Joe dug his heels in via a blog post, saying "The fact is, this video was to let voters know what I believe about gun rights... you see, the gun hating liberals want to re-write history, and they need people like me to shut up. I, for one, will not." (As evidenced by his incessant Facebooking to this day).

Joe also stirred up some ire at a rally for Arizona Republican State Representative Lori Klein in 2012 when he proposed to "put a damn fence on the border going to Mexico and start shooting." He qualified those remarks at another rally: "Put troops on the border and start shooting, I bet that solves our immigration problem real quick." 

...a lot of them

Joe caused a stir yet again when he waded into racial territory via a 2013 blog post. "Admit it. You want a white Republican president again. Wanting a white Republican president doesn't make you racist, it just makes you American... having a white Republican president is best for the country." He later claimed he was trying to bring public attention to the problem of "race warfare." 

Sadly, there's more. In 2014, Joe wrote an open letter to the father of a victim in the Isla Vista, Calif. shooting (in which six people were killed). Here's an excerpt: "I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But: As harsh as this sounds—your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights." Again, the reaction to Joe's opinion (which nobody asked for) was swift and critical.

He got a job with Chrysler

Joe raised some eyebrows when he accepted a union job with Chrysler in 2014. A heretofore notably vocal opponent of unions, Joe responded to charges of hypocrisy by explaining that Chrysler required membership and that the union was private, so taxpayers were not at risk, reported ABC News.

Critics were quick to point out that were it not for the 2009 federal government's bailout of the auto industry (which Joe had previously criticized), he may not be employed. In any event, Joe told Reuters in 2016 that he had taken the job as an "experiment" to get a closer look at a union factory. He reportedly worked on the paint line for three months and then left. Mmmkay.

He gives speeches

According to his Facebook page, Joe is still pounding the lecture circuit pavement and is prepped and ready to discuss a diverse array of topics, such as "spreading the American work ethic, veterans appreciation and real American patriotism to workshops how to deal with instant media attention and how to stick to your principles." And, per his website, he's had more than 400 speaking engagements and is apparently a "crowd favorite, drawing an amazing amount of numbers across the nation." His words, not ours.

He ran for Congress

Not content to just be a political commentator, Joe threw his hat in the ring and ran for a seat in Ohio's 9th Congressional District in 2012 as the Republican nominee. 

According to The News-Herald"Republicans recruited him to run and thought his fame would help bring in enough money to mount a serious challenge. But his fundraising struggled and he ran a low-key campaign that got little attention." He was subsequently defeated by 15-term Democratic incumbent Rep. Marcy Kaptur.

He supported Trump in 2016

This probably doesn't come as much of a surprise: Joe the plumber came out in support of then-candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign. His reasons for supporting the GOP nominee? Simple. He told Reuters that Trump is "a winner. He's made billions. He's dated beautiful women. His wife is a model. That's not to sniff at. And a lot of people believe he can bring that kind of success to the White House." 

He's got some competition

Look out, Joe. Since 2008, some new everyman characters have gained traction, including "Cendi the Chef," who is also worried about jobs, guns, and morals, and Gene Huber, a zealous Trump fan who admitted to regularly saluting and speaking with a cardboard cutout of Trump. Huber has yet to get a nickname (though we could probably think of a few), but Trump did invite him to appear in front of a giant crowd during a February 2017 rally. These fresh faces haven't stolen Joe's unique crown, but he may want to watch his heels.  

BTW, he was never a licensed plumber

Joe the "plumbing business-owner hopeful" just doesn't have the same ring, does it? Though he's milked the nickname for years, one fact remains: Joe was never actually a licensed plumber.

According to The New York Times, "Mr. Wurzelbacher had never held a plumber's license, which is required in Toledo and several surrounding municipalities. He also never completed an apprenticeship and does not belong to the plumber's union... he acknowledged that he does plumbing work even though he does not have a license."

Oh, crap. 

He's working as a news executive

From faux-plumber to writer to union man to candidate...we can barely keep up. According to an October 2016 article in The Washington TimesJoe is now working as "a news executive, accepting the job of 'vice president for public relations' for the Liberty Alliance , a private coalition of 80 conservative websites and news organizations." It seems like the man acquired a taste for media in 2008 and just can't get enough.

He's involved with a lifestyle site

Final fact: along with his eponymous personal page, Joe was, at one point, reportedly also in charge of LivingLoving.com, a now-defunct website that, according to its still-active Facebook page, "has become synonymous with romance, comfort, compassion, partnerships, healthy habits and most importantly—loving life and what brings us all happiness." It features informative articles such as, "You can be a paid pooper!" and "Bridesmaid Dives Into Lake During Photo Shoot, You Won't Believe Why!" The site was reportedly inspired by Joe's wife, Katie, whom he married in 2011.