From NBC/NJ's Matthew E. Berger
LEESBURG, Va. -- For days, Palin has been speaking of "Tito the Builder" as another embodiment of a small business owner seeking lower taxes -- in short, another "Joe the Plumber."
Today, Tito Munoz spoke for himself.
Munoz -- dressed in an orange reflector jacket and yellow construction hardhat filled with Republican campaign stickers -- welcomed Palin to Virginia with a message of free enterprise and hard work.
"Everything we stand for is in danger by higher taxes and less freedom," Munoz told an enthusiastic crowd, which frequently chanted his name. "Everything we stand for is made stronger by people like you, like John McCain and Sarah Palin."
For her part, Palin noted the name Tito has not been mentioned this often since the heyday of the Jackson Five. And she said the Colombian immigrant was unhappy with the way Joe Wurzelbacher had been treated after he questioned Obama at a Toledo, OH rally earlier this month.
"Tito wants to know, and I quote, he asked, he says, 'Why the heck are you going after Joe The Plumber,'" Palin said. "'Joe The Plumber has an idea. He has a future. He wants to be something else. Why is that so wrong?"
Palin reiterated the message to small business owners she has said daily on the trail, suggesting Obama's tax plans would hurt small businesses and make it harder for them to hire new employees.
"Tito loves this country, and Tito isn't the only McCain supporter who feels that way," she said. "In fact, I know that we have a lot of small business owners here with us today, and they feel just like Tito does."
Palin also said a McCain Administration would lower business taxes, which are the second highest in the world (although many US corporations find loopholes around them).
The crowd here in Leesburg was creative, inaugurating several new slogans, including "I am Joe" and "Vote McCain, use your brain." When Palin began speaking of her goals to help families with children with special needs, the audience chanted "Bless your heart."
The stop in Leesburg is one of three rallies Palin will hold in Virginia today. The statewide tour comes as the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll finds Obama with an eight-point lead in this traditionally red state.