In ‘Must-Win’ Florida, McCain Stumps for ‘Jose el Plomero’

MIAMI—After several long introductions here in a gym at Florida International University, the hall went dark.

Spotlights roved around the stage. Inspiring trumpet music played on the loudspeaker. The lights came back on and an announcer on the loudspeaker introduced Senator Joe Lieberman, Cindy McCain and “the next president of the United States” John McCain.

The crowd went crazy. They waved their pompoms and held up all their “Mac Is Back” and “We Heart Cindy” and “In John We Trust” signs.

Lieberman, speaking first, said the welcome meant something indescribable to the McCains. “What that says to me,” he said, is that McCain will win Florida.

Lieberman said, “I am here as a Democrat, reelected as an independent.” He directly appealed to “my fellow independents and Democrats in Florida.”

Then he went there.

“Which of the two candidates is the fighter we need for Joe the Plumber?” he said. “I think you know what I’m saying, John McCain will fight for Jose el Plomero.”

Cindy McCain spoke next, and, in a not-so-subtle dig at Michelle Obama, said, as she has before, “I always have been proud of my country.”

Then McCain stepped up, greeted by another emphatic round of applause.

“There is no doubt whatsoever that we will win the state of Florida,” he said, calling it a “must-win state.”

During the stump speech, he mostly stuck to economic policies and his plan to buy up troubled mortgages. “This administration is not doing that,” he said, arguing, as part of his claim to bring the country “in a new direction,” that “I’m not George Bush.”

He didn’t bring up Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright, but said, “I think Senator Obama could use a few more tough questions.”

Since the debate, McCain said, Joe the Plumber, his personification of the American worker, has been the target of attacks from the Obama campaign and media.

“The response of Senator Obama and his campaign was to attack Joe. To attack Joe!” McCain said with astonishment. “He has television cameras parked out in front of his house.”

McCain did not mention that he was the one who pulled Joe out of obscurity by referring to him relentlessly on national TV.

At the end of his speech, during which a few people trickled out to beat the traffic, McCain said, “Let me give you the state of the race right now.”

The race is one in which Obama is already taking a victory for granted, McCain said, one in which Obama is “measuring the drapes,” and one in which the media “forgot to let you decide.”

He repeated, as he has for days, that just as in “other races,” this is one where “we’ve got ’em just where we want ’em.”

He said that he would fight for them,

and said the word “fight” over and over, building the crowd’s applause into an enthusiastic frenzy.

“We never quit,” he said.

In ‘Must-Win’ Florida, McCain Stumps for ‘Jose el Plomero’