Starting point: After grilling Barack Obama about his tax plan during an Ohio rally, "Joe the Plumber" comes up 25 times in the final debate and becomes a John McCain mascot. Turns out his name isn't Joe, he's not a licensed plumber and he owes taxes. (Article continued below...)
Present day: He has a publicist, a book ("Fighting for the American Dream," sold online only) and, he claims, a possible radio-hosting gig. "It's all very surreal," he tells NEWSWEEK, though he acknowledges it might not be for much longer. —Sarah Kliff
Starting point: Days after Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin becomes McCain's veep pick, she reveals that her daughter Bristol, 17, is pregnant by Johnston, 18, a high-school hockey player who calls himself "a f–––ing redneck" on his MySpace page. He joins the Palin family onstage, chewing gum, at the GOP convention.
Present day: The baby is due any minute; the wedding is reportedly still on. But Johnston has quit school and left Wasilla for a job on Alaska's remote North Slope oilfields. —Jesse Ellison
Marianne Pernold Young
Starting point: At a New Hampshire rally for Hillary Clinton on Jan. 7, Pernold Young, 65, asks the candidate, "As a woman … how do you do it?" Clinton's teary reply sparks an upset win. After giving more than 50 interviews in three days to prove she wasn't a campaign plant, Pernold Young unplugs her home phone.
Present day: Around town, Pernold Young, who is back to work as a freelance photographer, is still known as "Hillary Person." Even though she ended up voting for Obama. —Kurt Soller
Starting point: At a McCain rally in Minnesota on Oct. 10, Quinnell, 75, says she "can't trust Obama" because "he's an Arab." The video goes viral, and she's dubbed "Crazy McCain Lady" and played by Kristen Wiig in a "Saturday Night Live" sketch.
Present day: Quinnell is back to supervising mentally disabled kids on schoolbus rides. She tells NEWSWEEK that she found the "SNL" sketch "hilarious." Originally a Hillary voter, she now tentatively backs Obama. "I hope and pray that he can live up to his promises. It'd be wonderful if he could do all that." —Katie Paul