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Sen. John McCain

WASHINGTON— John McCain may have created his own housing crisis.

Hours after a report that the Republican nominee didn't know exactly 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 ranking as 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 the tank or Gerald Ford eating a tamale with the husk still on.

"I think — I'll have my staff get to you," McCain told Politico 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. Newsweek recently estimated the two owned at least seven properties.

Last week McCain cracked that being rich in the U.S. meant earning at least $5 million a year. With most Americans feeling the pinch of a worsening economy, the remarks allow Democrats to suggest that McCain cannot relate to ordinary voters.

It's also another example of how McCain, nearly 72, can be fuzzy and forgetful on some facts.

Campaigning in Chester, Va., Obama told voters, "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."