WASHINGTON (AP) -- John McCain may have created his own housing crisis.
Hours after a report that the Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting didn't know how many homes he and his multimillionaire wife own, Democratic rival Barack Obama launched a national TV ad and a series of campaign stops aimed at portraying McCain as wealthy and out of touch.
With the economy the top issue in the race, Obama sought to turn McCain's gaffe into one of those symbolic moments that stick in voters' minds.
Think John Kerry sailboarding or the first President Bush wowed by a grocery store checkout scanner, Michael Dukakis riding in a tank or Gerald Ford eating a tamale with the husk still on.
"I think - I'll have my staff get to you," McCain told the Politico online site when asked Wednesday how many houses he owns. "It's condominiums where - I'll have them get to you."
Later, the McCain campaign told Politico that McCain and his wife, Cindy, have at least four in three states - Arizona, California and Virginia.
Property records reviewed by The Associated Press show McCain and his family appear to own at least eight homes: A ranch and two condos in Arizona; three condos in Coronado, Calif.; a condo in La Jolla, Calif.; and another in Arlington, Va. The number of houses is a bit trickier to determine since the ranch has at least four houses and a two-story cabin on it.
Last week McCain cracked that being rich in the U.S. meant earning at least $5 million a year. His latest comments gave Democrats an opportunity to suggest that McCain cannot relate to ordinary voters.
Campaigning in Chester, Va., Obama said: "I guess if you think being rich means you've got to make $5 million and if you don't know how many houses you have, it's not surprising you might think the economy is fundamentally strong." He returned to the McCain remark later, saying of teachers: "Most teachers hold themselves accountable. They didn't go into teaching to make money. They don't have seven houses."
The Obama campaign also announced 16 campaign events across the country to highlight the comment and try to turn the tables on McCain's effort to cast him as an elitist. In the battleground state of Michigan, Obama's campaign asked volunteers to guess how many houses McCain owns, a contest dubbed, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: McCain Edition."
While both sides are trying cast the other as too rich to understand the working class, the truth is neither candidate is hurting for money.
McCain's tax returns showed a total income of $405,409 in 2007. According to her 2006 tax returns, Cindy McCain had a total income of $6 million. Her wealth is estimated by some at $100 million, based on her late father's Arizona beer distributorship. She has not released her 2007 returns, which she files separately from her husband.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, reported making $4.2 million in 2007.
The Republican National Committee responded with a Web site highlighting Obama's ties to Chicago businessman Antonin "Tony" Rezko, a friend and contributor who was convicted in June on more than a dozen felonies in a corruption scandal.
Obama and his wife bought their home in Chicago in 2005 for $1.6 million after getting advice from Rezko. The corruption case had no connection to Obama, and Obama has said it was a mistake to work with Rezko on buying the house.
McCain's campaign also released a new television ad highlighting the Obama-Rezko connection.
"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 campaign spokesman Brian Rogers.
Associated Press writers Philip Elliott in Sedona, Ariz., Beth Fouhy in Chester, Va., and Ann Sanner and Douglass K. Daniel in Washington contributed to this report.
On the Net:
McCain campaign: http://www.johnmccain.com/
Obama campaign: http://www.barackobama.com/index.php