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‘Joe the Plumber,’ Political Activist and Media Sensation, Dead at 49

Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, who became known as “Joe the Plumber” after he famously confronted then-candidate Barack Obama over his tax policy during the 2008 presidential campaign, died Sunday. He was 49.

Wurzelbacher had been battling pancreatic cancer.

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Conservative radio host Derek Hunter confirmed Wurzelbache’s death Sunday on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, writing, “Horrible news. My good friend Joe Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, passed away this morning at the age of 49 from pancreatic cancer. He was a good man and an exceptional friend.”

Wurzelbacher became a media sensation in October 2008 when he challenged Obama during a campaign stop in Ohio about his tax plan being anathema to the American Dream. Obama countered that his proposal would actually aid small business owners like Wurzelbacher.

The press quickly dubbed him “Joe the Plumber,” and Obama’s Republican rival, John McCain, capitalized on the frenzy by referencing Wurzelbacher multiple times during the third and final presidential debate. He also joined McCain on the campaign trail.

Wurzelbacher — who frequently came under fire for his incendiary comments about everything from gun control to illegal immigration — threw his hat in the political ring in 2012 when he ran against incumbent Marcy Kaptur for Ohio’s 9th congressional seat. He ultimately lost.

Wurzelbacher is survived by his wife, Katie, and their three children.

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