Homes McCain doesn't remember having worth nearly $14 million
Even though John McCain can't remember how many houses he and his wife own, his political opponents have been keeping track of the multi-millionares' holdings.
All told, the seven properties at which the McCains can rest their weary heads after long days on the campaign trail are valued at nearly $14 million, according to two separate research documents obtained by RAW STORY.
Perhaps we should cut the Republican presidential candidate some slack, though, for his fuzzy memory when it comes to counting his houses. With so many ranches, condos and beachfront properties spread across the country, keeping track could prove a little tricky.
"I think -- I'll have my staff get back to you," McCain told two curious Politico reporters Wednesday.
The gaffe has set Democrats on a new populist offensive trying to paint McCain as an out-of-touch elitist. Democratic candidate Barack Obama quickly released a Web ad hitting McCain over the home controversy, and he and his surrogates were on the offensive throughout the day Thursday.
"I guess if you think that being rich means you gotta make $5 million and if you don't know how many houses you have, then it might not be surprising that you think the economy is fundamentally strong," Obama said. "But if you're like me and you've got one house, or you are like the millions of people who are struggling right now to keep up with their mortgage so they don't lose their home, you might have a different perspective."
Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a top prospect to become Obama's running mate, joked to CNN that McCain couldn't say how many homes he had because "he couldn't count high enough." (Video of Obama and Kain is posted below.)
Outside groups like the AFL-CIO and Brave New Films have been making the same argument in recent weeks.
McCain's staff seemed to lowball the family's property holdings, telling Politico they have "at least four" homes in Arizona, California and Virginia. And a worried campaign spokesman lashed out, reciting some of the GOP's favorite attempts to paint Obama as the out-of-touch elitist.
"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?" asked McCain spokesman Brian Rogers. "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 Americans? 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 average Americans."
Estimates of how many homes McCain owns based on examinations of property records in those states put the number between seven and 10, but a precise number is difficult to pinpoint depending on how one defines a distinct home. The properties often are owned by holding companies or trusts controlled by McCain's wife Cindy, an heiress to her father's beer distributorship fortune believed to be worth up to $100 million.
The McCains famously like to vacation on their Sedona ranch -- in fact, the Arizonan senator is heading there this weekend for a few days away from the campaign trail. The 15-acre ranch where McCain hosted members of his press corps this year holds six separate houses, so does that count as one home or six?
In Phoenix, the McCains' primary residence is a nearly 7,000 square foot condominium worth about $4.66 million. The McCains purchased two condos in 2006 and knocked down some walls to create the massive space in a high-rise that features valet parking, a rooftop swimming pool, personal spa services and on-staff housekeepers, among other amenities.
Whenever John or Cindy want some sun, sand and surf, they simply need to jet off to either of their two beachfront condos in Coronado, CA, worth a combined $4.8 million, according to property records. Coronado, a small island near San Diego boasts the second best beach in the country.
If they need a different view of the Pacific than Coronado's, the McCains simply have to head about 15 miles up the coast to La Jolla, CA, where they own another condo estimated to be worth about $1.1 million that's been in Cindy's family since the early 1970s.
The senior senator from Arizona, McCain is needed on Capitol Hill from time to time. But fret not, dear constituents, he's not living under some bridge, or squeezing himself into a Capitol Hill row house like some common Democrat.
Thanks in large part to Cindy's fortune, the McCains sleep easy in Washington's quiet suburbs whenever Capitol Hill beckons. The Cindy Hensley McCain Family Trust puts them up in an $847,000 condo in Arlington, where the couple has lived while in Washington since 1993.
There's also the matter of the McCains' daughter, 23-year-old Meghan. While many 20-somethings are lucky if they get a car for a college graduation gift, Meghan's present for finishing at Columbia University was a $700,000 loft in a hip section of downtown Phoenix.
A GQ profile of Meghan McCain, whose only job at moment seems to be blogging on her father's behalf, described the loft's interior as looking "like a spaceship furnished by West Elm." Wooden block letters arranged above McCain's kitchen cabinets spell the word indulge.
One wonders if this is a lesson the young McCain learned from her parents, who, by the way, according to property records, paid for the condo in cash.
The main house at McCain's Sedona ranch.
The building that holds the McCains 7,000 square foot condo.
The beach where the McCains own two condos.
The LaJolla, CA, condo that's been in Cindy Hensley's family for more than 30 years.
McCain's Arlington, VA, condo.
Meghan McCain relaxing in her Phoenix condo.
Obama hit McCain over forgetting how many houses he had during a campaign stop Thursday.
This video is from CNN.com, broadcast August 21, 2008.
CNN's John Roberts talked with Virginia Governor Tim Kaine who criticized John McCain for not being about to say how many houses he owned.
This video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast August 21, 2008.
Raw Story's Diane Sweet and David Edwards contributed to this report