The main challenge facing presidential hopefuls John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is to convince voters that they understand the needs of average Americans. Yet the more voters get to know them, the clearer it becomes that they lead lives that are far from ordinary.
McCain, Obama and Clinton all have prevailed against daunting odds to be among the most powerful people in the country. Their success has also made them celebrities and they have made tidy sums of money writing best-selling books. They have received a slew of awards from their many admirers and have been both lampooned and cheered as guests on "Saturday Night Live."
To understand what these presidential contenders will do if elected, voters need to first examine their respective political records. But we can also glean insights from taking a look at the personal experiences and individual choices these three remarkable people have made:
The candidates had differing childhoods. McCain, whose father and grandfather were admirals, partied hard during his youth and graduated at the bottom of his class at the U.S. Naval Academy. In contrast, Obama and Clinton both excelled at school and are both Ivy League-educated lawyers.
The Illinois senator, who was raised by a single mother, graduated from Harvard Law where he was the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review. Clinton and her husband former president Bill Clinton met while they were students at Yale Law School. Her father Hugh Rodham worked as a drapery salesman.
Both Clinton and Obama won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word -- he for the audio book version of The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream and she for book It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us. Obama beat out Bill Clinton for his second Grammy Award. In 2005, McCain's Faith of My Fathers memoir was turned into a made-for-TV movie.
Family and Friends
All of them are married and have children. McCain has four sons and three daughters. He and his heiress wife Cindy own a ranch in Arizona where he recently interviewed perspective running-mates. He has four sons and three daughters including 16-year-old Bridget who the McCains adopted from Bangladesh. Their youngest son, Jim, is a Marine who has served in Iraq.
Obama and his wife Michelle, who got married in 1992, have two young daughters, Malia and Sasha. They live in Chicago.The Clintons, who have been married since 1975, live in Chappaqua, New York, a suburb of New York City. Their daughter Chelsea has campaigned hard for her mother.
One of the biggest contests during the campaign has been for the hearts and minds of celebrities. Barbra Streisand threw her support behind Clinton noting "for the first time in our country's history, we not only have a woman, but a woman who is the most experienced candidate." Wilfred Brimley and Tom Selleck are among the few celebrities that have backed McCain. Obama has gotten the lion's share of the Hollywood elite backing, including talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, actress Halle Barry, former super model Cindy Crawford and Leonard "Mr. Spock" Nimoy.
The efforts of the candidates to prove that they are ordinary folks have had mixed results. Obama bowled a pathetic 37 during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania. Clinton drank beer and danced during a recent campaign appearance in Puerto Rico, though some bloggers are complaining that she didn't consume the beverage with sufficient gusto. McCain has won plaudits and occasional criticism for his snarky sense of humor -- like the time he warned American Idol's British judge Simon Cowell about his plans for immigration reform.
All three emphasize fitness to a degree. Obama plays basketball, Clinton speed walks and McCain hikes. Their musical tastes range from Aretha Franklin (Clinton), to Chuck Berry (McCain) to John Coltrane (Obama). See AOL's gallery of images from their personal lives for more details about their homes, cars and hobbies.
Presidential candidates are not satisfied with just champagne wishes and caviar dreams. They want power and are willing to go to great lengths to obtain it. A quick look at the details of their personal lives shows that McCain, Clinton and Obama are very different from the average American. And do we really want the next leader of the free world to be someone who lives life as a typical American anyway?
Lifestyles of the presidential candidates