She has gone on to use wealth inherited from her father to create a career in philanthropy.
McCain, who holds two degrees in education from the University of Southern California, serves as chairwoman of Hensley and Company, one of the largest beer distributorships in the country. She is, however, more hands-on in her philanthropy -- international work with Operation Smile and CARE. She also established her own nonprofit American Voluntary Medical Team, which sends medical teams to disaster or war-torn areas around the world.
She has been an elegant presence next to her husband on the stump but recently took on the high profile mission of traveling to the Georgian Republic after the Russia's invasion and meeting with President Mikheil Saakashvili. Earlier in the campaign, she made a very public tour of the children's charities she is involved with in Vietnam.
She has said that her overseas missions were an "important part of what I'm about, what makes me tick."
"Cindy McCain is an accomplished woman in her own right," Gandy said. "She manages a variety of enterprises. But I think she tries harder to fit into the more Republican mold of being the quiet, helpmate."
As a mother of four, she could have a more vocal role in her international charity work on behalf of children.
But Cindy McCain is not likely to be involved in her husband's administration. She told Harper's Bazaar, "I would not go to a Cabinet meeting. I don't deem it appropriate."
Cindy McCain is used to standing out. It is her inheritance that gives the McCain family its wealth; she is McCain's second wife and is quite a bit younger than her 72-year-old husband.
The fact that the family income comes from a beer distributorship and that the candidate for president has been divorced have not become issues.
"She's like Nancy Reagan, in the sense that she and Ronnie had been divorced," Berkowitz said. "Reagan made it a nonissue. She's from that world."
And her wealth is "relatively new money," Berkowitz said. "Having a beer distributorship, it's not unlike the Kennedy father. It's not like being a banker, not that respectability. It's more working class."