Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview Wednesday that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own.
"I think - I'll have my staff get to you," McCain told Politico in Las
Cruces, N.M. "It's condominiums where - I'll have them get to you."
The correct answer is at least four, located in Arizona, California
and Virginia, according to his staff. Newsweek estimated this summer
that the couple owns at least seven properties.
In recent weeks, Democrats have stepped up their effort to caricature
McCain as living an outlandishly rich lifestyle - a bit of payback to
the GOP for portraying Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as an elitist, and
for turning the spotlight in 2004 on the five homes owned by Sen. John
F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.
Pro-Obama labor groups have sent out mailers highlighting McCain's
wealth, and prominent Democrats have included references to it in
comments to reporters.
Twice in the past two weeks, those Democrats have focused on McCain's houses.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Politico's Ben Smith that it was
McCain "who wears $500 shoes, has six houses and comes from one of the
richest families in his state."
And David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, referred in an interview
with Adam Nagourney of The New York Times to an imagined meeting of
McCain strategists "on the portico of the McCain estate in Sedona - or
maybe in one of his six other houses."
The Obama campaign seized on the house issue Thursday with an ad
called "Seven," claiming that's the number of houses McCain has.
ad closes with a shot of the White House and the narration: "Here's ONE
house American can't afford to let John McCain move into."
McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said in response: "Does a guy who made
more than $4 million last year, just got back from vacation on a
private beach in Hawaii and bought his own million-dollar mansion with
the help of a convicted felon really want to get into a debate about
houses? Does a guy who worries about the price of arugula and thinks
regular people 'cling' to guns and religion in the face of economic
hardship really want to have a debate about who's in touch with regular
"The reality is that Barack Obama's plans to raise taxes and
opposition to producing more energy here at home as gas prices
skyrocket show he's completely out of touch with the concerns of
At a campaign appearance in Chester, Va., on Thursday morning, Obama
said: "Somebody asked John McCain, 'How many houses do you have?' And
he said, I'm not sure. I'll have to check with my staff. True quote:
I'm not sure, I'll have to check with my staff. So they asked his staff
and he said, at least four. At least four! ...
"If you're like me and you've got one house - or you were like the
millions of people who are struggling right now to keep up with their
mortgage so that they don't lose their home - you might have a
different perspective. By the way, the answer is: John McCain has seven
homes. So there's just a fundamental gap of understanding between John
McCain's world and what people are going through every single day here
McCain's comments came four days after he initially told Pastor Rick
Warren during a faith forum on Sunday his threshold for considering
someone rich is $5 million - a careless comment he quickly corrected.
In the interview, McCain did not offer an alternate number, but had a new answer ready.
"I define rich in other ways besides income," he said. "Some people are
wealthy and rich in their lives and their children and their ability to
educate them. Others are poor if they're billionaires."
McCain, by anyone's measure, is well-off, if you account for his wife's
fortune. Cindy McCain inherited control of her father's beer
distributorship, the largest in Arizona, and has an estimated worth of
more than $100 million.
Carrie Budoff Brown and Ben Smith contributed to this article.