Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Obama's running mate ... John McCain?

"To be honest, I think it was just an everyman kind of moment," said 34-year-old Jim Piccillo of his peccadillo. Watch the video below.

"To be honest, I think it was just an everyman kind of moment," said 34-year-old Jim Piccillo of his peccadillo. Watch the video below.

TAMPA — Jim Piccillo swears he was not a spy planted by the John McCain campaign to sabotage Barack Obama. Yes, he's a registered Republican, but all that phone banking and get-out-the-vote grunt work done on behalf of Mr. "Yes We Can" is for real.

So what made Piccillo, in front of thousands at the USF Sun Dome on Wednesday, introduce Obama's running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, as "John McCain."

"A brain fart," he said.

"To be honest, I think it was just an everyman kind of moment," said the 34-year-old Land O'Lakes resident, who was watching a Rays playoff game at home Monday night when a party operative called and asked him to warm up the crowd for Biden.

Piccillo, who had been quoted briefly in a New York Times article about his abandoning the GOP, heartily accepted and immediately began working on a speech. The draft was traded back and forth between him and the Obama campaign and got revised "seven or eight times."

On top of page three is a reference to McCain, and Piccillo thinks he must have glanced down at it when it came time to say the senator's name. However, he didn't realize he had named the wrong senator.

The crowd cheered, and Biden stepped onstage without missing a beat. It wasn't until he was driving home that they learned about the flub, played on WFUS-FM, 103.5. "We thought it was a joke, that they'd spliced it in," said Piccillo's fiancee, Sandi Keeble.

Then the reporters started calling.

No, Piccillo told them, he didn't get paid by the McCain campaign. He just messed up.

"This is the biggest foot I've ever had in my mouth," he said.

Not that Piccillo, who said he majored in musical theater at college, hasn't made mistakes onstage before. During a community theater performance of Guys and Dolls, he once took a misstep during a dance number and toppled a stack of newspapers, which knocked over a sign.

Piccillo, who said he did not vote in Florida's presidential primary, said he probably would have voted for McCain if he had cast a ballot. He liked the Arizona senator's down-home sincerity.

But he switched his allegiance when he heard former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani ridicule Obama's work as a community organizer during a speech at the Republican National Convention.

The laughter from the crowd at the convention set off Piccillo, a former mortgage company executive who found himself without a job on Aug. 11.

"I believe in smaller government," said Piccillo, who has been drawing unemployment. "But I definitely feel a necessity to help those who are trying to make a better life for themselves."

He said Obama and Biden propose policies that support that philosophy. While waiting to go onstage, he got a chance to meet Biden, whom he described as "incredibly personable.

"If you were standing in line at Publix you could imagine turning around and talking to this guy," he said.

Piccillo said he's sorry for his mistake, which he knows will be played and replayed, but life goes on.

"I have no problem with people knowing I screwed up," he said. "I'm just asking for a little bit of understanding for this whole thing."

Obama's running mate ... John McCain? 10/08/08 [Last modified: Sunday, October 12, 2008 6:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Police: Uber driver's gun discharges during fight at Adventure Island in Tampa

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — An Uber driver's gun went off Sunday at Adventure Island during a fight between the driver and two passengers.

  2. Baker cautious on Pride politics


    Rick and Joyce Baker strode down Central Avenue Sunday amid rainbow flags, corporate booths, and blaring music of the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker chats Sunday with people at the St. Pete Pride Festival. As mayor, Baker did not sign a Pride parade proclamation, but now he says he would.
  3. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  4. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

    Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who can be a free agent Saturday, counts the Lightning among his early suitors.
  5. Senate leaders try to appease members as support for health bill slips


    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill, even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week.

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, is one of the five Republican senators who announced they cannot support the health care bill as drafted.