We can probably expect a pretty brutal campaign in Florida, with Mitt Romney needing a win to regain his footing, and Newt Gingrich needing a win to solidify his status as a realistic GOP presidential nominee.
With this in mind, Romney apparently has a two-pronged message for Floridians, where the effects of economic crash and housing bubble were especially severe. The first, as we heard this morning, is that Romney cares about Florida’s widespread foreclosures.
Mitt Romney … took a seat in front of a foreclosure map, grabbed a pen and a piece of paper, and started note-taking on individual stories of pain.
“I saw this morning that the number of homes in foreclose represents about around one quarter of all homes in the country,” he said. “Some 460,000 homes — absolutely extraordinary numbers.”
And the second is that this is a real area of weakness for Gingrich.
Mr. Romney then asked the crowd of about 250, “What’s he been doing for 15 years” since leaving his House position? “He’s been working as a lobbyist, selling influence around Washington. He’s been working for Freddie Mac, heard of those guys?”
It was a pointed reference, here in the foreclosure capital, because Freddie Mac is a federally run mortgage giant. The mention was met with cries of “boo” from the crowd.
“He said he was a historian,” Mr. Romney said. “I would like him to release his records. What was his work product there? Freddie Mac figures in very prominently to the fact that people in Florida have seen home values go down.”
The message might have greater salience if the messenger had more credibility.
Let’s take these one at a time. On the first point, it stands to reason that Romney would show sadness for those facing foreclosure, but what he neglected to mention this morning is his own position on the crisis. In October, Romney argued he’s opposed to foreclosure relief for struggling Americans. “Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process,” he argued. “Let it run its course and hit the bottom.”
Notwithstanding what he considers “absolutely extraordinary,” Romney is the only pro-foreclosure candidate in the race.
On the second point, it’s clear that Gingrich has a legitimate Freddie Mac problem, but Romney appears to have one of his own. According to his personal finance disclosure forms, Romney invested pretty heavily in Freddie Mac and made a fair amount of money.
Maybe the former governor should pick a different issue to focus on?