The president is the top elected official in the United States and often called the most powerful person in the world.
★ Clout: The president is head of state and chief executive officer of the most powerful country in history.
★ Resources: The president oversees a budget of $3.67 trillion, a federal work force of 3 million and a military of 1.1 million people.
★ Tenure: The president is elected every four years, but is limited to two 4-year terms.
THE GROUND RULES
To qualify you must be 35 years old, have been born in the United States and have been a U.S. resident for at least 14 years.
Labor Day has been the traditional kickoff for the two major party candidates, which gives them two months to woo voters.
In reality, candidates begin runs for their party’s nomination up to two years before Election Day — time they need for exposure, public recognition and raising money.
Campaign costs have skyrocketed, and fundraising has, too. Each of the candidates — incumbent Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney — is expected to raise about $1 billion for his election effort.
Candidates decide where to spend their time and resources, usually eyeing states heavy with electoral votes that may be considered up for grabs. To win, a candidate needs 270 electoral votes.
To get the nomination, candidates stump states with primary elections or party caucuses. Both determine how many delegates a candidate can claim at national conventions that nominate standard-bearers.
★ Nice house: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20005. The 200-year-old White House has 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, eight staircases and three elevators (to reach six levels). Five full-time chefs work in a kitchen able to serve dinner to 140 guests and hors d’oeuvres to 1,000.
★ Good money: $400,000-a-year salary plus $50,000 in expenses. But it’s not great money. A comparable job in the private sector would command a salary of millions a year. Presidents of some major U.S. universities earn more than the U.S. president.
★ Great getaway: Camp David, a 125-acre retreat 90 miles north of Washington.
★ No airport hassles: Any aircraft in the U.S. military fleet becomes Air Force One (above) if the president is on board. If it’s a Navy or Marine craft, the designation
changes to Navy One or Marine One. Also, ground transport is in one of several armorplated limousines or heavy-duty SUVs.
44 men have been president.
4 ex-presidents are living: George W. Bush, Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.
14 presidents served as vice president.
69 is the age of the oldest person elected president — Reagan.
43 is the age of the youngest person elected — Kennedy.
42 is the age of the youngest person to serve as
president — Theodore Roosevelt (right), who became
president following McKinley’s assassination.
CASH & CONFLICT
Often the people who make policy — lawmakers, administration leaders — also have money and investments. To diminish the appearance of a conflict of interest, many put their holdings into a blind trust.
That’s an account whose assets are unknown to the beneficiaries. A third party manages the trust independently. That way a policymaker can’t know if a certain regulation or rule will impact his or her financial investments.
Romney and Ryan have blind trusts. Obama and Biden do not.
THE PRESIDENTIAL PAYCHECK
Presidential candidates usually are better heeled than most Americans, so it’s a bet they’re not seeking the job for the paycheck.
Here’s the asset background of the 2012 Republican candidates. Members of Congress are paid $174,000 a year.
★ Gov. Mitt Romney: His net worth has been reported to be between $190 million and $250 million. Those
numbers, however, don’t include other items such as real estate and trust funds. It is estimated that he could be worth more than $350 million.
★ Rep. Paul Ryan: Net worth exceeds $4 million.
★ President Barack Obama: His 2011 assets were valued at around $8 million. His annual salary is only
$400,000, so income from the sales of his two books, “Dreams of My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope,” have added millions.
★ Vice President Joe Biden: He and his wife, Jill Biden, report assets between $239,000 and $866,000. Biden makes $230,700 a year.
WHITE HOUSE WEALTH
Some of the 43 former presidents were wealthy by the standards of their day.
★ George Washington (in office 1789-97): His family was wealthy and he married a wealthy widow. When he died in 1799, his estate was valued at more than
$500,000, a handsome sum then. His salary as president: $25,000.
★ Andrew Jackson (1829-37): Among the wealthiest presidents of the 19th century. His fortune was made in real estate through deals made while he was a U.S. Army general. His presidential salary was also $25,000.
★ Herbert Hoover (1929-33): He made his money in mining and investments. By World War I, when he was just 40, he was worth between $1 million and $5 million. He donated his annual presidential salary
of $75,000 to charity.
★ Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45): Born into wealth, Roosevelt was also a Wall Street lawyer. His personal estate was valued at more than $1 million.
★ John F. Kennedy (1961-63): Born into wealth, Kennedy was notorious for not carrying money, and friends often had to slip him some cash. He, too, donated his $100,000 annual presidential income to charity.
★ Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-69): Earned his wealth entirely while in public life. By the time he became president, his and wife Lady Bird’s wealth was estimated at $14 million. Most of the fortune came from land deals and a radio and TV station in Austin, Texas.
THE FLIP SIDE OF THE COIN
Serving in the White House doesn’t always mean a lifetime of financial security.
★ Ulysses S. Grant died impoverished. The two-term president (1869-77) invested money — donated by friends and supporters — in a fund that went bust. He sold his swords and souvenirs just to survive. He was
broke when he began writing his memoirs. He died of cancer shortly after his “Personal Memoirs”— published by Mark Twain — came out. It made nearly $500,000.
★ Thomas Jefferson: Author of the Declaration of Independence, two-term president (1801-09), prolific writer, quintessential American philosopher, farmer and founder of the University of Virginia, died July 4, 1826,
virtually bankrupt. Troubled by debt, his finances were ruined after the failure of a business for which he had endorsed a note.
Emma Kantrowitz of McClatchy-Tribune
Information Services contributed to this report.