When Joe "The Plumber" Lara woke up this morning it seemed like any other day. But, when he checked his answering machine it clearly was not. It began with 56 messages on his answering machine — some from as far away as the United Kingdom — and by mid-afternoon Lara had done phone interviews with a slew of well-known publications including the Los Angeles Times and Esquire magazine. His Web site, www.joelaratheplumber.com/home.html, which normally gets about 200 hits per month, is at 900 and counting just for today. When the Reporter talked to Lara he was attempting to respond to a text request from the Jay Leno Show. It’s only a matter of time before TMZ reporters are found in the bushes outside the Ace Hardware shop in Oxnard where he works.

Lara has presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama to thank for his 15 minutes of fame; the two made numerous references to “Joe the Plumber” during Wednesday night’s final debate. While there is more than one plumber in the United States named “Joe,” Lara is the only one whose business is actually registered as “Joe the Plumber.” While plumbing is Lara’s primary business, tough economic times have forced him to take a part-time job at Ace to make ends meet and drum up business.

Lara is a born and bred Republican whose grandfather taught him to “earn his own keep,” and believed that Democrat ideology was communist. Though he’s voted for his party’s candidates in every election so far, he remains undecided about this one. When Lara’s son, a college student and first-time voter asked his dad how he could be undecided at this point, he said it’s mainly because he’s just not sold on McCain.

 “McCain reminds me of my Grandpa,” said Lara who finds Obama to be “presidential” in appearance and demeanor but lacking the necessary experience. Lara has been following the campaigns and watching the debates, but finds the negativity tiresome and irrelevant. Like most Americans, he’d like the candidates to stick to the issues.

Lara’s also none to thrilled with media coverage, which he feels is biased. Fox News says McCain won the debate but CNN says Obama won.”  Lara remembers a time when the media simply told the truth.

“When I was a kid they’d tell you how it is, ‘The cow jumped over the moon.’ ”

Everyone from well-wishers and prank callers have attempted to contact Lara today but he remains cheerful and unfazed by all the commotion. “It’s funny how people get wrapped up in this,” he said.