Hours after news broke Sunday that former Secretary of State Colin Powell had endorsed Democrat Barack Obama, John McCain hosted a campaign rally in Westerville, Ohio, just outside of Columbus.
"I love being the underdog, my friends. We've got 'em just where we want 'em," he said. "What America needs in this hour is a fighter: someone who puts all his cards on the table and trusts the judgment of the American people. I have fought for you most of my life."
For years, McCain and Powell were allies in those fights — two military men together in the rough-and-tumble world of politics. McCain told Fox News Sunday that he still admires and respects his longtime friend, but he takes issue with Powell's assessment that Obama is ready to be commander in chief.
"We have a respectful disagreement, and I think the American people will pay close attention to our message for the future and keeping America secure," McCain said.
McCain added that he was not surprised by Powell's announcement.
But some of his supporters were. Brett Dickenson and Dana Chamberlin got the news just as they were leaving the rally.
"That's a shame," Chamberlin said. "Colin Powell was a great commander and a great head of state, so his opinion will mean a lot to a lot of people. I just don't agree with it."
During campaign events, McCain usually asks veterans to raise their hands so the crowd can recognize their service. On Sunday, he asked for a similar show of support for Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher.
Joe the Plumber has become a kind of mascot for the campaign, ever since he questioned Obama's plan to raise taxes on businesses and families making more than a quarter of a million dollars a year.
"On behalf of 'Joe the Plumber' and Rose the Teacher and Phil the Bricklayer and Wendy the Waitress and all small businesspeople around America, will small businesspeople please raise their hands so we can thank you for what you do for America — job creation," he said.
Later, McCain's customized campaign bus rolled into the convention center in Toledo, not far from where the actual 'Joe the Plumber' lives. Wurzelbacher didn't attend the Toledo rally. He was in New York, taping TV interviews. But McCain again used the plumber's question to challenge Obama's plan to raise taxes on the rich and "spread the wealth around."
"America didn't become the greatest nation on Earth by giving our money to the government to spread the wealth around. In this country, we believe in spreading opportunity for those who need jobs and those who create them," he said.
There were fewer 'Joe the Plumber' signs in the audience Sunday than in previous days. One man confessed as he left the convention center that he thought the speech was getting a little old.
Still, Barb Hiner was glad she came. The longtime Republican was feeling a little down after learning that Powell had endorsed Obama. Hearing McCain helped cheer her up.
"I was getting a little disheartened after hearing all the newspapers and the TV all are saying Obama, Obama. But I was very excited after hearing him today. The bottom line: Everybody has to vote," she said.
McCain promised supporters Sunday that he will win Ohio and prove the pundits wrong again.