Political Animal


October 25, 2011 10:40 AM Putting foreclosures around Romney’s neck

By Steve Benen

Last week, Mitt Romney accidentally became the pro-foreclosure candidate.

In a recorded interview with the editorial board of the Las Vegas Review-Journal — no area has been harder hit by this than Las Vegas — Romney was asked about the housing crisis, and the former governor argued that policymakers shouldn’t even try to help.

“Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process,” he said. “Let it run its course and hit the bottom.”

Even Nevada’s Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, said Romney doesn’t “fully understand” what’s going in in the state.

Democrats intend to make Romney pay a price for this one. The DNC has created RomneyHousingPlan.com to highlight the Republican frontrunner’s support for foreclosures; the party put together this web-only video last week, and Dems are launching this ad in Arizona this week, where the percentage of underwater homeowners is one of the highest in the nation.

The attack ad has the added benefit of being true.

In an odd twist, the Romney campaign sent out a press release yesterday, insisting the White House shouldn’t “wait for the housing crisis to run its course.”

So, just last week, Romney said policymakers should let the foreclosure problem “run its course.” This week, Romney is sending out press releases that accuse Obama of wanting to let the foreclosure problem “run its course.”

Does the Romney campaign even read its own materials? Does the former governor listen to his own comments?

The argument coincides with President Obama unveiling a new plan to allow struggling homeowners refinance and bring down their mortgage payments. In states hardest hit by the housing crisis — Nevada, Florida, Arizona, and others — the choice may come down to a candidate trying to stop foreclosures and a candidate who says, “Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process.”

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • c u n d gulag on October 25, 2011 10:52 AM:

    Mitt's not a flip-flopper.

    He's a Mormon dradle.

  • Ron Byers on October 25, 2011 10:52 AM:

    Do Republicans have a clue? People are hurting out here. I deal with clients all the time who are trying hard to save their homes, who are falling into bankruptcy or foreclosure. I have never seen anything like this.

    By the way, I heard yesterday that Obama's new program isn't expected to do much. It is just expected to help him gain some sort of PR advantage.

    Let me give you my take on that kind of thinking. It sucks and it will backfire. The current program has failed badly and has done a lot to hurt Obama's image in the country outside the beltway.

    The time for public posturing is done. We need real help. More of the same old same old PR driven bullshit is going to hurt Obama more than help.

  • Gretchen on October 25, 2011 10:52 AM:

    I especially like how robotic Romney seems at the end of the clip.

  • Ron Byers on October 25, 2011 10:56 AM:

    By the way, the bankruptcy court has announced that in my part of the country the median income is dropping. That is a bad thing for everybody not named Koch.

  • Danp on October 25, 2011 11:00 AM:

    The time for public posturing is done

    It's not just posturing. But there are limited things a President can do without help from Congress.

  • Ron Byers on October 25, 2011 11:07 AM:

    HAMP was and is little more than PR posturing. That cruel joke's failure, and Obama's failure to even notice its flaws, are partly responsible for Obama's falling approval ratings. It is almost Obama's New Orleans, but the DC feedback loop really hasn't noticed that it is a scandal.

    PR driven bullshit doesn't get 'er done any more.

  • Perspecticus on October 25, 2011 11:12 AM:

    "Does the former governor listen to his own comments?"

    Since it never seems to matter what he says now versus five minutes from now, why would he bother listening?

  • Grumpy on October 25, 2011 11:13 AM:

    “Let it run its course and hit the bottom.”

    Could be worse. Romney could be one of those Republicans who opposes evolution. In this one area, he is consistent. Many of the voters he's prostrating to believe in survival of the fittest for finance, not biology.

  • berttheclock on October 25, 2011 11:23 AM:

    As usual, Mr Byers speaks the truth about HARP. Yet, this site kept running those insipid ads telling everyone how Obama would help those in need of mortgage relief. Yes, just go into default, ruin what little credit you have and still lose your home. Yet, the left refuses to believe HARP was anything but another "Glorious Victory" for the administration.

  • T2 on October 25, 2011 11:26 AM:

    the new CBS/NYT poll has Cain on top, followed by Romney then it drops off to ! Gingrich!. But Perry is way down....no upward tic for him after rolling out some "policy".
    He's got to make a move soon, doesn't he?

  • square1 on October 25, 2011 11:32 AM:

    I have little doubt that, if neither Obama nor Romney were incumbents, that Obama would clean his clock on this issue. Romney's record is terrible.

    Unfortunately for Obama, he has to run on a record. And his record is not good.

    While I am willing to believe that Obama genuinely wants to help those in danger of foreclosure, he has consistently refused to put forward any plan that would mandate that the banks take a haircut. The problem is that the housing bubble has burst and isn't going to be re-inflated. In this game of financial musical chairs, someone is going to lose out. And if the administration is determined to save the last seats for the bankers then, by definition, the people who have to lose out are homeowners and the suckers who bought the MBS based on the now underwater mortgages.

    In the world of the Obama administration, moral hazard is only a concern when the middle class might get a break.

    So Obama is never going to sound as heartless as Romney, but his policies may end up being little better than what Mittens would have done.

  • Stranger on October 25, 2011 11:36 AM:

    @ T2 - Yeah, he'll make a move. He's going to go negative on everyone. Alex Castellanos predicts:

    “My guess is they believe that if they can kill Romney, no one else can get the nomination but Perry,” Castellanos said. “I expect that a few Perry positives will soon hit the TV airwaves, but they will just be cover for a brutal assault on Romney from the Perry campaign and his super PAC.”

    He warned: “Perry won’t just go negative. He’ll make your television bleed and beg for mercy.”

    It's worked for him in Texas, and it's really his only hope. He has nothing else to offer.

  • Gretchen on October 25, 2011 12:00 PM:

    @square1: and if the banks and appraisers were in league to lend more and more money to people at inflated prices, nobody deserves more to take a haircut down to the prices the houses should have been in the first place. It'll never happen, though.

  • square1 on October 25, 2011 12:25 PM:

    @Gretchen: Exactly. One can blame individual homeowners for borrowing more than they could afford. But an individual isn't responsible if the bottom falls out of an entire market and the home is underwater. That is entirely the lenders' fault.

  • jomo on October 25, 2011 12:41 PM:

    Does he understand that foreclosures lead to home abandonments which drive entire neighborhoods down. The result of letting it hit bottom would actually make the process worse than it might otherwise be. It is actually a good investment to slow the foreclosure process.

  • DAY on October 25, 2011 12:57 PM:

    We have all seen the "Buy Here-Pay Here!" used car lots. "Just bring in your license and pay stub!"
    Similar to the Rent to Own storefronts that "rent" teevees and sofas, they make their money when a payment is missed, and send the repo man to grab the merchandise. And sell it to the next low income sucker.
    You think the mortgage banksters weren't paying attention to this lucrative business?

  • TCinLA on October 25, 2011 1:16 PM:

    Wow. A new world's record. Not only can Romney "support the party" without taking a position on what the party is doing (in Ohio), he can support both sides of the housing crisis at once.

    And Kerry was a "flip-flopper" in 2004?????

  • zandru on October 25, 2011 1:57 PM:

    Forclosures are Good!

    They allow the wealthy to acquire valuable property and land for just pennies on the dollar.

    Come on - what would you expect Mr. "Vulture Capitalist" to say? It's just the old Them what has, gits philosophy. Capitalism 101.

  • Gina on October 25, 2011 3:54 PM:

    This doesn't look like a flip flop to me at all. It looks more like a calculated move, using the exact same phrase, to provide Romney with an avenue to talk his way out of his first set of comments. If someone says, "He said to let the foreclosure process run its course!", the reply instantly becomes, "No, he said Obama shouldn't let the foreclosure process run its course!" It's actually a pretty smart move on his part, and one the great unwashed masses of Fox News watchers will certainly buy into without thinking twice.

  • Doug on October 25, 2011 10:15 PM:

    Those commneting about the ineffectiveness of HARP may wish to read the article by Joseph Gagnon (link in Mr. Benen's post "Obama Moves to Bolster Housing Market"), which is highly recommended by Dr. Krugman.
    I can't summarize it and still do it justice, but I will note that while it IS limited to Freddie and Fannie, the author, Mr. Gagnon, appears to think that it could, overall, have a substantial and beneficient effect on the economy. Apparently there could be as many as four million homeowners benefiting from the new regulations.
    suqare1, I would imagine the President has better things to do than deliberately seek delay and ultimate failure, which is what your "put forward any plan that would mandate that the banks take a haircut" is. Such an action would require the agreement of the Republican-controlled House AND 10 or more Republicans in the Senate, to make up for for the conservaDems who wouldn't support such an un-American, and contributor-unfriendly, action.
    Personally, I'm inclined to think that the present actions initiated by President Obama were because this was something that the Federal could, and should, do as quickly as possible. "Quickly" and "requiring banks to take a haircut" are NOT something one can reasonably associate with Boehner's caucus. How many more homeowners would face foreclosure while the President waited for the Republicans to, finally, say NO?
    Any posturing can saved for after the Convention in NC...

  • Ron Byers on October 25, 2011 11:39 PM:

    I don't know what Joseph Gagnon is smoking, but I want some. No program in living memory has been such a total fuck up. The problem for Obama is Polly Anna bullshit from people like Joseph Gagnon who apparently have the ear of the administration. The people who the program has failed have told all their friends. They are the ones who don't have much confidence in Obama.

    They hate the Republicans, but people out here don't see any real relief coming from Obama and his banker loving friends in the administration.