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Politicians vying for the highest office in America often try to project a down-home demeanor to endear themselves to the electorate. At the same time, nobody can mount a serious campaign for the presidency without money, and lots of it. So as nice as it is to come off like someone a voter would love to have a beer with, even the folksiest candidate will never make it to the Iowa caucus without a vast war chest.
Since it takes money to run for president, it’s not surprising some of the best-known candidates have had vast personal fortunes at their disposal to bolster their bids. Sure, there are the political action committees, interest groups and regular voters sending in money to fund their candidates, but a multimillion-dollar arsenal may help even the least-popular one get to Super Tuesday.
Using data from Wealth-X, a global intelligence firm specializing in information about ultra-high net worth individuals, CNBC.com ranks the 10 richest people who have sought the U.S. presidency since 1992. Some of them made their fortunes before their presidential runs, and others cleaned up afterward, so the Wealth-X data lists the candidates' current net worth, regardless of when their presidential runs took place.
Some of the people who made the list might surprise you, but what’s more surprising is who didn’t make it — the Bushes, Herman Cain, Rick Perry and John McCain, among others.
Click ahead to see Wealth-X’s list of the 10 richest people who ran for president in the last 20 years.
See also: The Richest Members of the US Congress
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 20 January 2012
Current estimated net worth: $45 million
Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards sought the Democratic presidential nominations in 2004 and in 2008. The closest he came was in 2004, when he became the running mate for Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.
Their ticket was defeated by then-incumbent President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, but Edwards returned to the campaign trail four years later, albeit unsuccessfully. He currently has an estimated net worth of $45 million, much of which comes from hedge-fund investments and from awards he won for clients in personal injury and medical malpractice lawsuits.
Current estimated net worth: $65 million
Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York from January 1993 to December 2001. His leadership during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks made him an internationally renowned figure of heroic proportions.
He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of England and, after campaigning hard to get President George W. Bush re-elected in 2004, he ran for the 2008 Republican nomination for the presidency. That didn’t go too well for him, and he withdrew from the race to support the eventual nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Giuliani currently has an estimated net worth of $65 million with which to console himself. Much of it was earned after he left the mayor’s office and founded Giuliani Partners, a management and security consulting business.
Current estimated net worth: $70 million
The Republican former governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman was appointed by the Obama administration as ambassador to China in 2009. The Mandarin-speaking Huntsman had been the ambassador to Singapore and had invaluable knowledge of the region, making him a logical choice despite his party affiliation. However, some speculated he was appointed because he nursed aspirations to run for president and might pose a threat to Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election prospects.
It turned out to be more than mere speculation. The former governor became a Republican presidential candidate in 2011, but he didn’t catch on with the Republican electorate. After coming in third in the New Hampshire primary he withdrew from the race and endorsed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Currently, Huntsman's estimated net worth is $70 million. Much of it comes from personal holdings in Huntsman Corp., a chemical company founded by his father, Jon Huntsman Sr.
Current estimated net worth: $85 million
Former first lady Hillary Clinton was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000 as the representative of New York, despite living in the state for only a short time. Some people speculated the Senate was merely a stepping stone to the presidency.
This turned out to be true, and she was considered the presumptive nominee before the 2008 primary season got under way. She ran a formidable race to the bitter end, but lost to a freshman senator from Illinois named Barack Obama. After his election, he appointed her secretary of state.
Her estimated net worth is currently $85 million. While a significant portion of this wealth comes from husband Bill Clinton's speaking fees, she also has significant cash and bond holdings, and she earned an $8 million advance for her 2003 book, “Living History.”
Current estimated net worth: $85 million
Bill Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States. His old job was governor of Arkansas, and when he ran for the presidency in 1992 he had the task of convincing the electorate that he was not another Jimmy Carter, a fellow Southerner and a one-term president.
Clinton had the advantage of running during an economic downturn against an unpopular incumbent, George H.W. Bush, whose base was siphoned away by a third-party candidate, Ross Perot. It was enough to win Clinton the presidency, and despite fierce opposition he was re-elected in 1996.
He currently has an estimated net worth of $85 million. Most of this wealth comes from his hefty speaking fees, and from his two books, “Giving” and “My Life.”
Current estimated net worth: $100 million
Al Gore was vice president in the Clinton administration. He ran for president in 2000, and it was widely assumed that he would win. However, the contest was much more competitive than expected, and in the end he won the popular vote but lost in the electoral college to former Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
Rather than pursue the presidency again in 2004, Gore left electoral politics. He shifted his focus to the environment, and in 2006 he was the subject of “An Inconvenient Truth,” a film based on his book about climate change that was one of the most popular documentaries ever made.
Gore’s estimated net worth is $100 million, much of which was amassed in the private sector after he left office. His wealth includes real estate holdings, lucrative speaking fees and the stock options from his tenure on the board of Apple.
Current estimated net worth: $240 million
In 2004, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts won the Democratic nomination for the presidency, going head-to-head against President George W. Bush. Many people believed that his military record qualified him to preside over a country that was still very much in shock from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
It was not to be. Kerry lost the election and returned to the Senate, where he remains today. But don’t cry for John Kerry. His wife is Teresa Heinz, widow of an heir to the H.J. Heinz Co. The couple also own several multi-million dollar real estate properties. Kerry’s current estimated net worth is $240 million.
Current estimated net worth: $250 million
Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts from 2002 to 2006 and became a candidate for the presidency in 2007. He ran a tough campaign but other than winning the Wyoming caucus and the Michigan and Nevada primaries, he was unable to gain frontrunner status, particularly after Sen. John McCain’s victories on Super Tuesday in 2008.
Romney dropped out and endorsed McCain, but his return in the next presidential election cycle was already a foregone conclusion. In 2011, he entered the race as the presumed GOP frontrunner.
Romney’s estimated net worth is $250 million, making him one of the 3,140 richest people in the U.S., according to Wealth-X. Much of this wealth comes from investments in banks, credit corporations and real estate, according to financial information released by his 2008 campaign.
Current estimated net worth: $450 million
Steve Forbes is editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine and president and chief executive officer of Forbes Inc., its publisher. He is also the son of the magazine’s late publisher, Malcolm Forbes, and grandson of its founder, B.C. Forbes. His fortune derives mainly from the publishing empire that was handed down to him by his family.
Forbes was a candidate for the presidency in 1996 and 2000, running on a platform that proposed abandoning the tax code and introducing a flat tax. He never caught on with Republican primary voters, in part due to a stiff and uncomfortable manner that made Al Gore look like Jim Carrey.
Forbes dropped out of both races but has remained a prominent voice in conservative politics and still wields influence within the party. His estimated net worth is $450 million.
Current estimated net worth: $3.58 billion
Ross Perot was one of the most popular third-party presidential candidates in U.S. history. He ran in both 1992 and 1996, but it was his first attempt at the presidency that remains most memorable.
Perot’s ornery demeanor and rootin’ tootin’ rhetoric resonated with a significant portion of the electorate, and though he didn’t win any states in the general election he garnered enough of the popular vote to suggest that quite a few disgruntled voters were out there who were fed up with both major parties.
Perot’s estimated net worth is currently $3.58 billion. Some of this wealth comes from the sale of his data processing firm, Perot Systems, to Dell in 2009, but most of it was in municipal bonds as of September.