The Conversation

Do Rich Candidates Usually Win?

While wealth may have always been a target for attack in many political races, it reached a fever pitch in Obama's populist attacks on Mitt Romney. Does wealth now play an out-sized role in the nation's political back and forth? 

From Hillary Clinton to congressional, gubernatorial and state-legislature candidates around the country, wealthy candidates are getting pummeled on the campaign trail because of their large fortunes. Once seen as symbols of the American dream, today's wealthy candidates are trying desperately (and often awkwardly) to deny their wealth and appear as middle class, everyday Americans.

Or is it a fair indicator that someone may be 'out of touch.' And don't forget the irony of candidates like Michael Bloomberg, whose wealth didn't get in the way of his winning in a politically deep blue New York City. The vast majority of wealthy candidates lose irrespective of their ability to pump their own money into a race.

And some of their worst moments are the result of trying to appear nonwealthy. When Clinton said she and her family were "dead broke" when they left the White House, Clinton was pilloried in the press. News of the Clintons lavish speaking fees, private jets and questions about their foundation have all challenged Clinton's image as the champion of blue-collar America that dominated her run in 2008.

Even before the current election cycle, millionaire candidates weren't faring well. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 263 millionaire candidates who put at least $500,000 of their own money into their campaigns have run for congressional office since 2002. But 84 percent of them lost.


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