CHESTER, VIRGINIA – Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, just hit Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for a Politico interview in which he said he wasn’t sure how many houses he has.
Asked how many houses he and his wife Cindy own, McCain told Jonathan Martin and Mike Allen "I think – I’ll have my staff get to you. It’s condominiums where – I’ll have them get to you."
It seemed a real gaffe for a politician who is trying to paint Obama as an elitist.
So this morning, after acknowledging that McCain "has a compelling personal story" as a Vietnam P.O.W. who "went through some things that none of us could imagine," Obama pivoted to his new attack that McCain is out of touch.
First he noted that McCain said that the U.S. is making "great progress economically."
"Who’s he talking to?" Obama asked.
Then he cited McCain’s "joke" from the forum at Saddleback Church when he offered to Pastor Rick Warren the definition that someone who’s rich is someone who makes $5 million a year.
"I guess if you’re only making $3 million a year then you’re middle class," Obama said. "I guess that’s what he meant."
Obama then cited the controversial comments by McCain economic adviser and former Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, that the U.S. had "become a nation of whiners," and that the country was in a "mental recession."
Obama said that McCain said recently, "I think the economy is fundamentally strong."
"This puzzled me," Obama said. "Then there was another interview the same day…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.’"
The crowd laughed.
"True quote!" Obama said. "’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.’
"Now think about that," Obama told the crowd, "I guess if you think that being rich means you gotta make five million dollars, and if you don’t know how many houses you have, then it’s not surprising that you might think the economy is fundamentally strong.
"But if you’re like me and you’ve got one house," he continued, "or you’re 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," Obama said. "So there’s just a fundamental gap of understanding between John McCain’s world and what people are going through every single day here in America. And you don’t’ have to be…a Nobel Prize laureate economist. You just have to have a little bit of a sense of what ordinary people are going through to understand that we cant afford eight more years or four more years or one more year of the same failed economic policies that George Bush has put in place."
McCain spox Brian Rogers issued a response statement saying, “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 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.”
– Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller
UPDATE: Obama campaign’s new TV ad attacking McCain on the subject.
The script says: "when asked how many houses he owns, he lost track, he couldn’t remember. Well, it’s seven. Seven houses. And here’s one house that America cannot afford to let John McCain move into," the ad concludes, showing an image of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.