The Shovel-Ready Joke

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 23 2011 2:10 PM

The Shovel-Ready Joke

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Last night, Gary Johnson won some actual, desparately needed buzz for this joke:

My neighbor's two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this president.

Less than 20 minutes later, some gossip circulated: Johnson's joke was a whole lot like one Rush Limbaugh told earlier that day.

My dogs have created more shovel-ready work than Obama has. In this week alone.

I asked Johnson about this after the debate. "I didn't listen to the show today," he said. "Someone else encouraged me to tell that joke." Later, he told the Huffington Post exactly which friend sent him the zinger.

It's a credible story, because some version of the joke has appeared on bumper stickers since the Tea Party boom of 2009.

Screen shot 2011-09-23 at 2.04.17 PM

Subliminally, I wonder if this was one of the reasons the joke hit so well. There was familiarity, whether conservatives realized it or not. It may have been a year since they last attended large Tea Parties where stuff like this was on sale. Is this bad for Johnson? Hell, when's the last time he had a one-day story, much less a two-day story?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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