For voters already faced with a difficult decision in November, the latest in a series of delightful name-calling, finger-pointing campaign ads highlights what could become the most important issue in this year’s presidential election: which ultra-rich candidate best relates to the average American.
Set off by the revelation this week that John McCain can’t remember how many houses he owns, this new mud-slinging contest could be the most crucial in the contest for the nation’s top job.
The Obama campaign immediately pounced on McCain’s blunder.
“How can someone with an annual income in the top 0.1 percent possibly be in touch with the average American,” said Obama at a recent rally. “If you’re like me and you’ve got an income no higher than the top 0.3 or 0.2 percent, you might have a different perspective than John McCain.”
The McCain camp was quick to point out that Obama is not exactly part of the proletariat, either.
“Barak Obama made more than $4 million last year,” said McCain in a TV ad that began airing this week. “Four. Million. Dollars. I don’t remember how much I made last year, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t four million dollars. I think.”
According to a recent poll, the issue of which candidate is more wealthy is the number three issue on the minds of likely November voters, coming in just behind flag lapel pins and the candidates’ ability to spin a convincing lie.
“It’s just so hard to choose between the guy with a single two million dollar mansion and the guy with six or seven half-million dollar houses,” said Marsha Lane, a Madison, Wisconsin housewife.
For some voters, riches can be relative.
“McCain owns six or seven houses, right? So that means he’s losing even more money than most people with this housing bust,” said Tom Eaton, whose Sacramento-area home is in the final stages of foreclosure. “So in a way, I think John McCain actually can relate to me better.”
Trying to determine which super-wealthy candidate is more in touch with the average American’s money concerns in these difficult economic times has proven too difficult for some.
“I don’t know,” said George Smith, a factory worker from Cleveland, Ohio, “I think maybe I’ll just vote for my buddy Steve. Now there’s a guy that I can relate to.”