Out of the 23 individuals who have so far officially announced to run for US president on either the Republican or Democratic ticket in 2016, 15 are multimillionaires.
The net worth of Republican candidates Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz fall just short of 2 million and every other frontrunner candidate has an estimated net worth of at least $400,000.
The average income of a US household lies just under $52,000 annually, as a 2014 US Census Bureau statistic revealed. Although wealth was once considered as decreasing the likelihood to accept bribes as a United States politician, candidates now are worried that many citizens will be put off by the wealth gap.
Most candidates have been trying to downplay the size of their assets and income to gain support from voters, with the notable exception of Republican candidate and businessman Donald Trump.
Trump, who is currently leading the polls on the Republican side, announced in a statement on Wednesday in capital letters that his net worth was “in excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS”. In the speech announcing his presidential campaign, he described himself as “really rich”.
On the contrary, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton does not speak of her $25m private wealth or her family’s $80m. She is presenting herself as a common woman, appearing in casual attire on the campaign trail and emphasising her mother’s humble backgrounds.
Republican candidate Chris Christie is following a similar strategy. “I don’t consider myself a wealthy man,” the New Jersey Governor said in April, speaking to reporters. He explained that “wealth is defined in a whole bunch of different ways”. The Washington Post immediately ran a story revealing that the Governor had a net worth of at least $3.8m.
Harry S. Truman was the last US president from a middleclass background. Since 1953 every US president has been a millionaire.
Jeffrey A. Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, says this is largely due to the cost of US presidential campaigns.
“Wealth and influence has always been an asset,” Engel told CNN in an interview in March. But he pointed out that over the past three decades it had become a prerequisite.
Former Governor Martin O’Malley is running as a Democratic candidate. One of the ‘poorest’ hopefuls, he is not a millionaire and, despite strong views and popular ideas (like making college study debt-free), he does not cross 2% in the polls.
Billionaire Donald Trump knows how to use media presence for his campaign. With several controversial statements, such as calling Mexicans “rapists” and ridiculing his opponents, he has received a lot of media attention.
For all candidates money seems to be an ‘issue’, in what will be America’s wealthiest and most expensive presidential election yet.