As you probably have seen by now, John McCain was asked in an interview how many houses he owns and didn't know the answer. The Obama campaign, natually is pouncing. Previous McCain out-of-touch rich guy factoids -- his economic advisors' contention that American are "whiners" on the economy, his statement that the definition of "rich" is making $5 million or more -- have not gotten much traction. But the house thing might reach critical mass -- it's natural late-night comic fodder and an easy thing for people to understand.

Here's McCain's reply:

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? Does a guy who worries about the price of arugula and thinks regular people “cling” to guns and religion in the face of economic hardship really want to have a debate about who’s in touch with regular Americans?

The reality is that Barack Obama’s plans to raise taxes and opposition to producing more energy here at home as gas prices skyrocket show he’s completely out of touch with the concerns of average Americans.

A couple points here. First, the reply is kind of weak. Going on vacation in Hawaii is a nice thing -- I couldn't afford it right now -- but not something so luxurious most people could never imagine themsleves doing it. And yes, $4 million is a lot, but it's one big year, and under McCain's definition, it doesn't even count as rich.

More importantly, the image of Obama as an out-of-touch elitist has already penetrated the narrative pretty deeply. The response that McCain is, in fact, far more out of touch with the economic circumstances of most people has not. (Indeed, by McCain's own definition, Obama is not rich.) So McCain seems to be playing for a tie here -- I may be rich and out-of-touch but so are you -- but a tie is a loss because this is a category that, until now, has been a decided advantage for him.

--Jonathan Chait