MIAMI - Make way, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin -- it looks like there's another polling phenomenon in Florida: The Joe the Plumber Effect.
As he pounds Obama for telling America's most famous handyman that he wants to "spread the wealth around," John McCain is improving his standing in Florida, with a Wednesday poll showing the Republican presidential candidate with a 1 percentage-point lead.
The Mason-Dixon Polling and Research survey shows McCain's numbers have remained static at 46 percent since early October, while Obama's support has decreased 3 percentage points to 45.
The results mirror three other Florida polls this week that, taken together, show the race is dead even as Obama's momentum appears to have slowed. Not only does the economic crisis -- a benefit to Obama -- no longer lead the news casts, McCain has finally seized on a pocketbook issue by using the plumber to talk taxes, welfare and socialism, said Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker.
"Joe the Plumber created the situation where Obama made a public relations mistake about spreading the wealth around," Coker said. "So there's a Joe the Plumber Effect to the degree that McCain finally found some sort of economic message that people can relate to -- taxes."
Coker didn't specifically poll Joe the Plumber as an issue. Personality issues can fade in importance as campaigns go on, as happened with both Obama and Republican vice presidential candidate Palin.
But taxes, Coker said, "are a big, big deal" in Florida, a state with no income tax and incessant complaints about sales and property tax increases.
Until now, Obama has successfully pounded the message home that 95 percent of people would get a tax cut.
And that includes Joe the Plumber, aka Samuel Joe Wurzelbacher, who had his by-now-famous exchange with Obama when the Democrat walked his precinct in Toledo, Ohio.
Wurzelbacher, who makes about $40,000 yearly, would actually get a bigger tax cut under Obama's plan than McCain's, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
Obama would raise taxes on individuals making more than $200,000 yearly and on families with an income of $250,000.
McCain invoked Wurzelbacher's name repeatedly during last week's debate in an effort to say that small businesses would see a tax increase under Obama -- though a Tax Policy Center analysis said, "The vast majority of small businesses would not be affected by Obama's income tax" increase that targets about 4.6 percent of all businesses in the top two income-bracket tiers.
For months, Obama has insisted on the campaign trail and even in his acceptance speech that he'd cut taxes on 95 percent of all taxpayers.
McCain has tried to frame him as an overall tax raiser anyway and Republicans have tried to blame the Obama campaign for attacking Wurzelbacher after media reports showed he couldn't afford to buy the business he wanted and that he wasn't a licensed plumber.
"He's decided to completely make up, just fabricate this notion that I've been attacking Joe the Plumber," Obama said Tuesday in Miami. "I got nothing but love for Joe the Plumber; that's why I want to give him a tax cut."
About that world crisis remark
Obama delivered a long-distance message to running mate Joe Biden, who was campaigning Wednesday in Colorado.
"I think Joe sometimes engages in rhetorical flourishes," Obama said in Virginia, gently chiding the vice-presidential nominee as he sought to sweep aside a dustup Biden touched off when he predicted that a world crisis would test Obama during his first six months in office.
In his remarks, Biden told supporters at a Seattle fundraiser on Sunday that if Obama was elected, the world's leaders would test his mettle as a young president, just as they did John F. Kennedy.
"I think that his core point was that the next administration is going to be tested, regardless of who it is," Obama said, placing his interpretation on Biden's comments.
In other polls
• The race tightened after the final debate, with McCain gaining among whites and people earning less than $50,000, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that shows The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, put Obama at 44 percent and McCain at 43 percent.
• Obama and McCain were essentially tied among likely voters in the latest George Washington University Battleground Poll, conducted by Republican strategist Ed Goeas and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. In other surveys focusing on likely voters, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Obama up by 9 percentage points, while a poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center had Obama leading by 14. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, among people registered to vote, found Obama ahead by 10 points.
• Obama is the overwhelming favorite of young people to win the election, according to a study released Wednesday. A survey of 18 to 24 year olds conducted by Harvard University found that Obama commands a 26 percent lead over McCain. The survey, which was conducted on the Internet between Sept. 12 and Oct. 6 of this year, is the latest in a series of polls Harvard has been conducting to gauge youth voting trends. It also found that McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had an adverse effect on his support.
The New York Times and Scripps Howard News Service contributed to this report.