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Joe the Plumber pulls plug on McCain

He became the the mascot of John McCain's campaign for the White House but the man they christened 'Joe the Plumber' has suddenly lashed out at the veteran US senator.

"He really screwed up my life, is how I look at it," Sam Wurzelbacher -- his real name -- told a reporter after addressing a political meeting in Pennsylvania.

Mr Wurzelbacher was thrust into the headlines worldwide just a few weeks before the election 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 said "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.

The former congressman and conservative radio host held the first rally of his campaign in Phoenix yesterday. Mr Hayworth will try to exploit deep suspicion of Mr McCain among members of the Republican Party's conservative base.

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 praised 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."