'Joe the Plumber' endorses McCain

COLUMBUS, OH (AP) - "Joe the Plumber," the small business aspirant and overnight media sensation, endorsed John McCain's presidential campaign Tuesday and said Barack Obama would make America a socialist nation.

The Ohio plumber, whose real name is Samuel Wurzelbacher, also agreed with a McCain supporter who asked him if he believed "a vote for Obama is a vote for the death of Israel."

"I'll go ahead and agree with you on that," Wurzelbacher told the man, retired Florida lawyer Stan Chapman who was visiting Ohio.

Wurzelbacher was joined at the rally by Rob Portman, a former Ohio congressman and budget director under President Bush, who said he disagreed with Chapman's assessment of Obama's foreign policy.

Wurzelbacher became famous after he was referred to constantly in the final presidential debate. McCain has been portraying the plumber as emblematic of people with concerns about Obama's tax plans.

Wurzelbacher himself has undercut the Republican message about him by revealing he makes far less than $250,000 a year. He actually stands to fare better under Obama's tax plan, but says Obama's plan would hurt him if he were able to buy the plumbing business from his current employer. Portman said an Obama administration would mean increased taxes on Social Security, dividends and small businesses.

"In the tough economic times that we're in, we shouldn't be raising taxes on anybody," said Portman, a McCain adviser.

An Obama spokesman said the attack is misguided.

"It's increasingly clear that John McCain is out of ideas, out of touch and has nothing left but desperate attacks," Isaac Baker said. "But facts are facts: Barack Obama is the candidate who is standing up for the middle class, has a plan to turn our economy around and will give Joe the Plumber and 95 percent of working families a tax cut."

Wurzelbacher's first trip to the podium was without notes. He often apologized to reporters gathered in a flag store for talking from his gut.

"I'm honestly scared for America," Wurzelbacher said.

He later said Obama would end the democracy that the U.S. military had defended during wars.

"I love America. I hope it remains a democracy, not a socialist society. ... If you look at spreading the wealth, that's honestly right out of Karl Marx's mouth," Wurzelbacher said. "No one can debate that. That's not my opinion. That's fact."

Wurzelbacher also said he had spoken with a lawyer about news reports that his state records had been accessed, perhaps illegally. The Ohio inspector general is investigating who or why accounts assigned to Attorney General Nancy Rogers' office, the Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency and the Toledo Police Department were used.

Wurzelbacher was scheduled to make stops in Dayton, Middletown, Milford and Cincinnati. The bus tour included guests billed as Mary the Flag Lady, Mike the Painter and Linda the Fitness Trainer.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)