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Joe? Where did you go?

From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy

DEFIANCE, Ohio -- "Where is Joe? Is Joe here with us today?"

That's the question John McCain asked roughly 6,000 people at Defiance Junior High School here this morning, But the correct answer was no -- Joe the Plumber was nowhere to be found.

There are conflicting reports about where or when or if Joe will appear with McCain at some point during his two-day bus tour of Ohio, but the candidate clearly thought that he was meeting him here in Defiance, the first stop on the tour.

Video: At an Ohio rally, Sen. John McCain calls out to 'Joe the plumber'  but Joe wasn't there, so he tells the audience, "you're all Joe."

While riffing on a common line from his stump speech about Obama's desire to "spread the wealth," McCain confidently proclaimed, "Joe's with us today. Joe where are ya? Where is Joe? Is Joe here with us today? Joe, I thought you were here today."

Then the senator covered up for Joe's absence by saying, "All right, well you're all Joe the Plumber. So all of ya stand up ,and say I thank you." McCain went on to say that he had seen Joe on TV this morning, and he asked the crowd to "give him a round of applause for what he's done for America.

McCain also hit Obama on some comments he made to ABC's Charlie Gibson last night when asked if he had thought about what he would do after November 4th if he lost. "Last night, Sen. Obama said that if he lost he would return to the Senate and try again in four years with a second act. That sounds like a great idea to me. Let's help him make it happen."

But Obama didn't tell Gibson that he'd make another White House run; he said he looked forward returning to the Senate and working with the next president and Congress.

"Look," Obama said, "when I started this campaign we were the longest of long shots, and Michelle and I were extraordinarily happy before I started running. And I'm a relatively young man. Ya know, they say there are no second acts in politics, but I think there are enough exceptions out there, that I could envision returning to the Senate and just doing some terrific work with the next President and next Congress."

A local school district official confirmed after the event that of the 6,000 people estimated by the fire marshal to be in attendance this morning, more than 4,000 were bused in from schools in the area. The entire 2,500-student Defiance School District was in attendance, the official said, in addition to at least three other schools from neighboring districts, one of which sent 14 buses.