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McCain ruined my life, says Joe the Plumber

He became the the square-shouldered mascot of John McCain's campaign for the White House in 2008, but all these months later the man they christened "Joe the Plumber" has suddenly lashed out at the veteran US senator from Arizona for "screwing up" his life.

"I don't owe him shit," Sam Wurzelbacher – his real name – told a public radio reporter after addressing a small political meeting in Pennsylvania when asked about Mr McCain. "He really screwed up my life, is how I look at it."

Mr Wurzelbacher was thrust into the headlines worldwide just a few weeks before the elections when Mr McCain made repeated reference to him during one of the televised presidential debates. The two men had met days before and Mr Wurzelbacher had voiced fears about likely tax increases if Barack Obama were to become president. The unexpected notoriety caused instant problems, with reports the next day that he practised plumbing without a licence. And towards Mr McCain, Mr Wurzelbacher clearly feels no gratitude. "McCain was trying to use me," he told Scott Detrow, the reporter. "I happened to be the face of middle Americans. It was a ploy."

Mr Wurzelbacher says that today he is supporting the Tea Party movement, and the conservative right's threat to the former presidential candidate was crystallised yesterday in the shape of primary challenger JD Hayworth, a former congressman and conservative radio host who held the first rally of his campaign in Phoenix yesterday. Mr Hayworth will try to exploit long simmering suspicions of Mr McCain among members of the Republican Party's conservative base to win his party's nomination.

Mr McCain, who has represented Arizona in Washington for almost three decades, is still the frontrunner. Sarah Palin, his former running mate, is said to be ready to make appearances on his behalf in the coming weeks, setting aside any recriminations lingering after their failed 2008 campaign together.

It seems Mr McCain can abandon any thoughts of having Mr Wurzelbacher turn out for him, however. The plumber even spoke with relative warmth about Mr Obama. "I think his ideology is un-American," he said, "but he's one of the more honest politicians. At least he told us what he wanted to do."