Where's Whatshisname the Electrician?

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank and washingtonpost.com's Akira Hakuta look back on the highlights of the 2008 presidential race.Video by Akira Hakuta/washingtonpost.com
By Dana Milbank
Tuesday, November 4, 2008

MIAMI, Nov. 3 You've already met Joe the Plumber. But John McCain waited until the day before the election to bring out his ultimate weapon: Pepe the Feather Duster.

Just after midnight on Monday, the Republican nominee took the stage at the University of Miami basketball arena to greet thousands of Cuban American supporters. When he got to the part in his speech about the Ohio man who challenged Barack Obama on his tax plan, he tried a bit of Spanish. "Joe the Plumber -- or, as they say in Little Havana, Pepe el Plumero," he said haltingly. "That's the last time I try that," he added.

Probably a good thing. Even if "Joe" somehow translates into "Pepe," McCain's pronunciation of "plomero," Spanish for plumber, came out more like plumero, Spanish for feather duster.

For McCain, the fun was just beginning. On the last full day of the campaign, the Republican presidential nominee made eight stops in seven states. While Obama, the heavy favorite to be elected the nation's 44th president, had a leisurely three-stop day, McCain wasn't about to go down without a fight.

The closing swing has echoes of Bob Dole's 96-hour death march of nonstop campaigning before the 1996 election. By the time McCain settles down to watch the returns Tuesday night, he will have hit nine states in 48 hours, from Peterborough, N.H., to UFO-loving Roswell, N.M.

Miami, 12:35 a.m.

McCain's campaign plane has just landed in Florida after a desultory day on the trail. The candidate's spirits leap, however, when he sees a boisterous crowd of 15,000 in the basketball arena. A Latin band plays horn music, and the vocalist sings, "McCain, McCain, donde esta McCain?"

"We ought to have all our rallies at this time of night, I'm telling you," McCain says. Members of his press corps do not agree.

Coral Gables, Fla., 5:49 a.m.

The fire alarm goes off at McCain's hotel, the Biltmore, and sirens blare, along with a recording: "An alarm has been detected and is being investigated. Do not panic." Nobody panics. They are too tired to panic.

McCain's motorcade arrived at the Biltmore at 1:20 a.m. Within moments, there were 58 people in line at the reception desk trying to check in. The journalists, finally collecting their bags just before 2 a.m., were told to be back in the lobby with their luggage at 5:30 a.m.

Tampa, 9:53 a.m.

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