As the presidential race heats up, Americans try to assess President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s spending priorities over the next four years – on everything from Social Security and health care to taxes, energy, and foreign policy.
We’re tuning in to speeches, debates, news articles, and campaign ads to understand the presidential candidates’ values. But as we consider what these men will do with taxpayer money, perhaps we can learn something from what they do now with their own.
Romney’s net worth is estimated at $250 million; Obama’s is around $11 million. While these figures and their personal spending habits say nothing meaningful about their ability to be an effective president, it’s still interesting to take a glimpse into their material worlds – and perhaps ponder the purchases we’d make, if in their shoes.
Read on to learn about some of Romney’s and Obama’s big purchases over the years.
Mitt and Ann Romney own a 3,009-square-foot Mediterranean-style beachfront property in La Jolla, Calif. Romney purchased the home for $12 million in 2008. The house, built in 1936, has three bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, and a deck with lap pool and spa.
But it may not be there for long. In 2011, he filed an application with La Jolla officials to bulldoze the single-story home and replace it with a larger, two-story home.
The Romneys purchased a 13-acre property on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro, N.H., for $2.5 to $3 million in 1997. The main house is 5,400 square feet, and there’s also a boathouse (valued at $630,000) and a horse stable with guest houses above it. The assessed value of the estate hit $8 million, as of July 2012.
In addition to his California and New Hampshire homes, Romney also bought a 2,100-square-foot, two-bedroom townhouse in The Woodlands at Belmont Hill, Mass., for $895,000 in June 2010.
In the past, Romney owned a larger estate in Belmont, Mass., that he sold for $3.5 million in 2009 and a ski home in Park City, Utah, that he sold for about $5.25 million in 2009.
President Obama and first lady Michelle own a 6,199-square-foot brick home in Chicago. They purchased the home, built in 1917, for $1.65 million in 2005.
Although that is Obama’s only home, the New York City apartment he rented while a student at Columbia University in the ‘80s was recently on the rental market, according to Zillow – with a price tag of $2,400 a month for two bedrooms and one bath.
Back in February 2012, Romney revealed his family’s collection of cars during an economics speech held at a football field in Detroit, Mich.
“I love this country. I actually love this state. It just feels good, being back in Michigan,” Romney said. “I like the fact that most of the cars I see are Detroit-made automobiles. I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually. And I used to have a Dodge truck, so I used to have all three [big automakers] covered.”
According to CBS News, Romney’s campaign quickly issued a clarification explaining that Ann’s cars are 2007 and 2010 Cadillac SRX models, and that one of them is at the family’s house in La Jolla, Calif., while the other is at their Massachusetts residence.
To accommodate his car collection, there have been rumors that Romney plans to build a “car elevator” for his four-car garage during his California home renovations.
Obama leased a fully loaded 2005 Chrysler 300C when he was a senator. He ditched the Chrysler in the summer of 2007 when he launched his presidential campaign and decided to lease a more fuel-efficient 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid – which rumors suggested was part of a political agenda to show disapproval of gas-guzzlers.
According to used-car authority Kelley Blue Book, Obama’s former Chrysler 300C is valued at $19,142. In early 2009 when Obama took office, veteran eBay car seller Lisa Czibor, who lives near Chicago, tried to sell the car for $1 million – with the help of a posted photo of the car’s title written in Obama’s name. But as of February 2012, the car had no bids that met the asking price.
As for the Ford Escape, it was returned to the Illinois dealership in 2010. The vehicle was put up for auction, but no further details were released.
Mitt Romney’s longstanding reputation for wearing tailored suits and ties traces back to his early days at Bain Capital. Back in 2007, when Time Magazine put Romney on its cover, the headline read, “Sure, He Looks Like a President.”
More recently, however, Romney has been opting for Kirkland-brand dress shirts that cost $18 a piece at Costco – which media rumors suggest is a strategy to better relate to everyday Americans on the campaign trail.
Ann Romney claims she’s an avid Costco shopper as well, but has also been seen sporting pricey attire: Her $990 Krakoff T-shirt drew criticism this spring after her appearance on CBS “This Morning.”
In August, a knee-length Oscar de la Renta dress that Ann wore during a speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., also created buzz. The Financial Times’ fashion editor, Vanessa Friedman, said the dress cost somewhere between $2,090 and $2,490.
President Obama has made appearances in suits that cost an estimated $1,500.
But that’s nothing compared to first lady Michelle’s occasional splurges. She was seen wearing a $6,800 jacket from designer J. Mendel to a reception at Buckingham Palace for the opening of the Olympics, for example.
During less lavish soirees, Michelle is often dressed in more subtle fashion, such as this dress by Tracy Reese, paired with pumps from J. Crew. The dress has not yet been produced, but similar versions cost $395 to $450.
It’s worth adding that Michelle’s fashion often comes without a price: She frequently receives wardrobe items from top designers like Jason Wu for free, months before the fashion lines hit stores. Oh, the luxuries of being first lady.