Samuel Rootbacher, celebrated as “Joe the Plumber”, dies at the age of 49

Samuel Joseph Rootbacher, who briefly became “Joe the Plumber,” the metaphorical everyman of America’s middle class, by interfering in an impromptu nationally televised row with Barack Obama over small business taxation in the 2008 presidential campaign, died Sunday at 5:00 p.m. his home in Campbellsport, Wisconsin, about 60 miles north of Milwaukee. He was 49.

The cause was complications from pancreatic cancer, said his wife Katie Wurzelbacher.

Mr. Obama, then a United States Senator from Illinois, was campaigning on Shrewsbury Street in a working-class neighborhood of Toledo, Ohio, on Sunday, October 12, 2008 when Mr. Wurzelbacher interrupted a football game with his son. He was strolling through his front yard and asked the Democratic nominee about his proposed tax hike for some small businesses.

During a heartfelt but largely inconclusive five-minute conversation in front of news outlet cameras, Mr. Wurzelbacher said he was worried about facing a bigger tax burden just as he neared the point where he could finally afford to buy a plumbing company , which He said would generate $250,000 a year in income.

Three days later, “Joe the Plumber,” as popularized by Obama’s Republican rival, Senator John McCain, was called about two dozen times during the closing debate of the presidential campaign.

Mr. Rootbacher became something of a folk hero in the final weeks of the campaign, particularly among McCain supporters and conservative commentators, who accepted his pronouncements that Obama’s wealth-sharing recipes for the economy resembled socialism, or even communism, and ran counter to the American Dream . McCain’s vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, also stepped in, appearing on stage at rallies along with Mr. Rootbacher.

But on election day his tenure as the burly, balding, iron-jawed John Doe ended when the public learned that he was not a licensed plumber (he could only work in Toledo for someone with a master craftsman’s license or in remote areas) and owed $1,200 Dollar back taxes.

He flirted with supporting Mr McCain but later dubbed him “the lesser of two evils” on the ballot and never revealed who he voted for in November.

“Let’s keep this a secret anyway,” his wife said by phone on Monday.

In 2012, Mr. Wurzelbacher won the Republican nomination to challenge Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the Democratic incumbent in Ohio’s 9th congressional district, but was suppressed in the general election, receiving only 23 percent of the vote while garnering 73 percent.

During this campaign he released a video defending the Second Amendment and blaming gun control for the Ottoman Empire contributing to the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century and Nazi Germany helping carry out the Holocaust on both counts it’s about the ability to defend yourself.

Again defending the right to bear arms, he wrote to the parents of victims of a 2014 mass shooting in Isla, California near the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara: “As harsh as that sounds, you are dead .” Children do not trump my constitutional rights.”

Samuel Joseph Rootbacher was born on December 3, 1973 to Frank and Kay (Bloomfield) Rootbacher. His mother was a waitress and his father was a war invalid.

After high school, he enlisted in the Air Force, where he trained to be a plumber. He was released in 1996 and worked as a plumber’s assistant and for a telecommunications company.

He capitalized on his fame after the 2008 election, appearing in television commercials promoting digital television. published a book entitled Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream (2009, with Thomas Tabback); and covered the 2009 Israeli ground invasion of Gaza for PJ Media, a conservative website. In 2014, he began working at a Jeep plant.

In addition to his wife, whose married name was Katie Schanen, he is survived by a son, Samuel Jr., from his first marriage, which ended in divorce; and three children from his second marriage, Samantha Jo, Henry and Sarah Jo.

Although Mr. Wurzelbacher ended his meeting with Mr. Obama by shaking hands, he appeared dissatisfied with the candidate’s reaction to the impact of his tax proposal on a small plumbing company.

“If you’re a small business — which is what you would qualify for first of all — you would get a 50 percent tax credit, so you would get tax breaks on your health care costs,” Obama said. And if his company’s sales were below $250,000, taxes wouldn’t go up, he added.

“It’s not that I want to punish your success; I just want to make sure everyone behind you has a chance to succeed,” added Mr. Obama. “My stance is that if the economy is inherently good for people, it will be good for everyone.

“If you have a plumbing business, you’re better off,” he continued. “If you have a whole bunch of clients who can afford to hire you – and at the moment everyone is so pressured that business is bad for everyone – and I think if you spread the fortunes, that’s for Everything is good.”

Mr. Wurzelbacher could not be persuaded.

“It’s up to me who I want to give my money to,” he would later say. “It’s not up to the government to decide that I’m making a little too much and so I have to share it with other people. That’s not the American dream.”

Ms. Wurzelbacher insisted Monday that her husband’s 2008 encounter with Mr. Obama was entirely spontaneous and not staged by Republican activists or anyone else, and that Mr. Obama’s appearance in the neighborhood was actually arranged by a neighbor down the block had been.

“It was complete coincidence,” she said. “It never ceases to amaze him that a single question has propelled him into the national spotlight.”


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Jennifer Adams

Dedicated news writer with a passion for truth and accuracy. Covering stories that impact lives.

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