As Nevadans caucus, Obama talks housing

President Barack Obama speaks at the James Lee Community Center in Falls Church, Va., Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. Obama outlined a proposal he proposed in his State of the Union address to allow homeowners with privately held mortgages to take advantage of record low rates, for an annual savings of about $3,000 for the average borrower.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Fresh off jobs numbers showing 243,000 new jobs in January, President Obama could have focused his weekly video address on the positive news. Instead, the president discussed his new plan to revive the still-slumping housing situation, and his message is pegged with election-year politics.

"The housing crisis has been the single biggest drag on our recovery from the recession," the president said in his weekly address, highlighting his recently-released plan to allow homeowners to refinance at record-low interest rates.

It is a plan that must pass a divided Congress, but the timing of his announcement and subsequent promotion is notable. He offered this idea during a critical week in the Republican presidential primary - between the Florida and Nevada nominating contests. Both states have high foreclosure rates, and both states are expected to be battleground states come November.

As Mr. Obama released his weekly address, Republicans in Nevada headed to caucus sites to choose their nominee - and some could be victims of the widespread foreclosure epidemic. Residents of the Silver State face the worst foreclosure rate in the country, with 1 out of 177 homes in some form of foreclosure in December, according to RealtyTrac.

Mr. Obama unveiled his housing plan Wednesday, just one day after Republicans in Florida - a state with the fifth-worst foreclosure rate in the nation - backed Mitt Romney.

At that time, the president didn't name (but subtly chided) the Republican front-runner's position on the housing crisis.

"It is wrong for anyone to suggest that the only option for struggling, responsible homeowners is to sit and wait for the housing market to hit rock bottom. I refuse to accept that, and so do the American people," the president said to an audience in Falls Church, Va. on Wednesday.

Romney told the Las Vegas Review Journal editorial board in October, "don't try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom."

When asked by Las Vegas political reporter John Ralston this past week about those comments, Romney confirmed his position. "When I say don't stop the foreclosure process, what I mean by that is, the best way to stop it is to get the economy going so home values rise and people can meet their obligations," Romney said.

Mr. Obama said his plan would "help millions of responsible homeowners who make their payments every month, but who, until now, couldn't refinance because their home values kept dropping, or they got wrapped up in too much red tape."

This is likely a precursor to a debate Mr. Obama and the eventual Republican nominee will have on the economy this election year.

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for