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Media jumps on Joe the Plumber

Ohioan was third biggest news story last week

While the final presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama and the economic crisis dominated the news cycle last week, Joe the Plumber, the Ohio plumber who both candidates mentioned repeatedly during the Oct. 15 debate, generated enough print and broadcast coverage to qualify as the number three topic of news for the week of Oct. 13-19, according to a study.

The debate itself accounted for 18% of stories last week, according to study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. The economic crisis — and the new proposals both candidates fielded to address the meltdown — accounted for 9%, barely squeaking past the 8% of stories devoted to plumber Joe Wuzelbacher.

McCain turned Wuzelbacher, who first came into the spotlight after questioning Obama about his tax plan at a rally, into “an instant star” by bringing him up as an example of middle-class America during the debate, the study said. The last of the three McCain-Obama debates drew an aud of 56.5 million viewers.

“And while that star was quickly fading, it burned bright enough to make the saga of Joe the Plumber the No. 3 campaign storyline of the week,” the study said.