Like countless snowbirds migrating south, the Republican primary has moved to Florida. In case you have not been keeping up, the race so far has been fairly dramatic. Mitt Romney won Iowa, and then he didn’t. After Romney won New Hampshire, it was discovered that someone in the farm belt had their math wrong and Rick Santorum actually won Iowa. Then, Newt Gingrich, after yelling about the media being generally awful, won South Carolina. So, each of those candidates has won a state and now they have come to Florida, where Republicans will choose their favorite on Tuesday, January 31. Pundits say the state is crucial because the winner here can claim to be the true frontrunner in the race to relocate President Obama from the White House.
Florida is a little bit different than the other primary states. For one thing, it’s about 80 degrees in January. For another thing, the foreclosure rate in the Sunshine State is well above the national average. Since 2007, Florida has ranked among the top four states in foreclosures every year. According to ABC News, 2012 will be another difficult year for the Florida housing market. As you might expect, candidates are using this to build themselves up and tear each other down.
Before he began his presidential bid, Newt Gingrich and his consulting company, called The Gingrich Group, worked for Freddie Mac, a large agency with management problems that has sustained much of the blame for the housing and foreclosure crisis. The type of work he did is unclear and debatable. Mitt Romney and others call it lobbying. Newt calls it consulting as a “historian.” Whatever he did, Newt’s opponents are making a very big deal out of the fact that he made a lot of money helping an agency that is potentially responsible for tossing many Floridians out of their homes, and keeping the Sunshine State a thorn in the side of the recovering national real estate market.
He can argue that he was just a historian talking about history, but Newt unfortunately consulted with Freddie Mach between 1999 and 2008, which everyone knows were some of the most complicated years for the declining real estate market. Also, Newt reportedly earned over $1.6 million dollars for his work with Freddie Mac. Did your history teacher make that much, ever?
If you do not live in Florida, you probably haven’t seen the ads. The strongest anti-Newt ad starts with this: “While Florida families lost everything in the housing crisis, Newt Gingrich cashed in.” Ouch. The Florida areas hardest hit are big cities like Miami and Palm Beach. You can check out the housing inventory in a place like Miami here: http://www.movoto.com/property/fl/miami.html.
While Newt struggles to define himself as an enemy of Freddie Mac even though they paid him, Mitt Romney is not scoring a lot of points either. His recent response to the foreclosure crisis was to suggest that the country just allow it to take its course, and to let the housing market hit rock bottom. The opinion that the government should do nothing may work well in conservative circles, but what about Florida as a whole? That idea cannot be too much comfort to the Floridians who may lose their homes this year.