His statements would seem to carefully place Mr. McCain just above the line of what he would consider “rich.” His wife’s 2006 income was slightly more than $6 million, according to tax records she made public earlier this year.
The Obama campaign said the Republican’s answer showed that Mr. McCain’s priorities are wrong.
“It should come as no surprise that John McCain believes the cutoff for the rich begins at $5 million. It may explain why his tax plan gives a $600,000 tax cut to the richest 0.1 percent of earners but completely leaves out 101 million hardworking American families,” Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Mr. McCain seemed to realize he set a high bar for wealth, and that Democrats may use his figure against him: “I’m sure that comment will be distorted,” he said.
Mr. McCain has explained his shift on the tax issue in various ways over the past two years. At times, he has defended his votes against the Bush cuts, and other times has hinted he made a mistake.
He also has contradicted himself on Social Security reform, saying he wouldn’t raise taxes but also that he wouldn’t rule out a tax increase if that’s what it takes to achieve negotiations. Fiscal conservative groups gave mixed reviews on his clarifications.
Mr. Obama, who had been a staunch opponent of the parts of the Bush tax cuts that primarily benefited those with higher incomes, is also relaxing his position. Last week, he said he would institute a 20 percent capital gains tax rate, five percentage points higher than current law but still less than the 28 percent rate he had floated earlier in the campaign.
The Democrat still calls for raising the top tax rate back to its level under President Clinton, which was 39.6 percent.
His plan got support from unexpected quarters last week when a Heritage Foundation analyst praised his call for lower capital gains taxes, telling the New York Sun that means middle-class taxpayers will likely pay less taxes under Mr. Obama than under Mr. McCain.