Two Americas, two images, one candidate. John Edward's lives the lifestyle of the rich and famous and talks about the increasing gap between the haves and the have nots. Edwards, who has made an anti-poverty message the theme of his 2008 presidential campaign, is taking heat for the lavish home he has constructed in Orange County, N.C.
In December, Edwards chose the modest backyard of a New Orleans woman who had lost her home to Hurricane Katrina as the image that best underscored his campaign theme.
Now voters are seeing another, sharply contrasting image of Edwards: his own home.
Sitting on 102 secluded acres _ surrounded by trees and defended by no-trespassing signs _ the 28,000-square-foot estate that Edwards and his family call home has presidential privacy.
A main home has five bedrooms and six-and-a-half baths. It's connected by a covered walkway to a bright red addition known as "The Barn," that includes its own living facilities along with a handball court, an indoor pool and an indoor basketball court with a stage at one end. Nearby, the family has cleared space for a soccer field.
With a current building value of $4.3 million, the unfinished Edwards estate is already about $1 million more expensive than any other house in the county, according to tax records. It sits on land worth about $1.1 million.
Edwards first purchased the land in 2004, during his failed run as vice president. He recently sold his mansion in Washington's tony Georgetown neighborhood for $5.2 million.
Many of the other 2008 contenders also own expensive homes. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and husband Bill, the former president, own two homes: a Dutch Colonial house in Chappaqua, N.Y., that they purchased for $1.7 million in 1999, and a Washington home that went for $2.9 million in 2001. Sen. Barack Obama owns a stately $1.65 million home last year on Chicago's South Side.
On the GOP side, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the founder of venture capital and investment firm Bain Capital, owns three homes. Arizona Sen. John McCain also owns real estate worth millions of dollars.