Romney looks to take housing-bust central Nevada

Nevada’s primary is tomorrow. Mitt Romney is certain to carry the pack — in some polls he’s leading by as much as 25% — but that doesn’t mean anyone is particularly impressed with his housing policy, something that should be quite important in a state where two thirds of homes are underwater.

So what is Mitt Romney’s housing policy? He doesn’t really have much of one.

I find this surprising for a candidate who has owned the most property of anyone in the race, including homes in Massachusetts, Utah, New Hampshire and La Jolla California. You’d think he’d be on the top of his housing game, but he’s actually far from it. 

In his 59-point plan to get the economy back into shape, Romney mentions the word housing exactly twice, both in the context of the bubble that burst to get us where we are instead of how to get us out of it.

As he told the Las Vegas Review Journal’s editorial board in October, his big plan is to do nothing. He wants to let the market work itself out by allowing foreclosure to happen and to eventually hit the bottom. Is that really a plan? It’s certainly not very comforting for the 1 out of every 150 people in Nevada whose homes are currently in foreclosure.

So why does he stand to win Nevada by an even larger margin than he took Florida? Why is Nevada, the state whose housing bubble burst the biggest, so smitten with a man who functionally has no housing policy? 

Romney has been extremely popular in Nevada since 2008, when he pulled 51.1% to Ron Paul’s 13.7% and John McCain’s 12.75%. There are many reasons for this, but the main reason is his Mormon faith, which up to this point has essentially been a non-issue. And now that it is an issue, it’s actually giving him a massive boost in the polls.

Mormons only make up 5% of the 18 and over population in Nevada, but they make up 25% of the caucus goers. In 2008, only 5% of them voted for a candidate other than Romney, and right now indications are that they will continue to vote for him, regardless of their housing situation.

Plus, polls indicate that Nevada voters are really just looking for someone to beat Barack Obama. Many in the state blame the president for the dwindling economy, and Romney has positioned himself as the ultimate fix to the broken job market. Gingrich may be trying to do the same, but voters in Nevada aren’t convinced.

Paul, who went as far as to skip Florida and head straight for Nevada, is not polling well. Right now he’s stuck in third, far behind Gingrich in most polls and occasionally neck and neck with last-place Rick Santorum.

Paul is currently the only one who has released a written out housing plan for Nevada, which includes allowing individuals to make penalty-free withdrawals from their IRAs and 401(k)s to purchase a home and allowing homeowners to take a capital loss deduction if they sell a home for less than they paid for it, but so far this isn’t making much of a difference.

So, in the state where housing should logically matter the most, it seems it’s really not much of an issue, and Romney’s inevitable win in this state will mean continuity for the first time so far in the primaries, and is likely to sustain that momentum. Meaning, housing policy or not, he’s going to be around for a while.

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