Most political pundits agree that the presidential race is tight, and the outcome could be decided in a few swing states where foreclosure activity is still high. Nationally, five states — Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Michigan, and to a lesser extent, Wisconsin — have borne the brunt of the housing market’s collapse. All of them are expected to be important battleground states in the presidential campaign. Here’s how they stack up.
Florida — President Barack Obama carried Florida in 2008, but an avalanche of foreclosures has devoured the Sunshine State’s economy, and voters are angry. With 29 electoral votes, Florida is a big political prize. It has the third-highest foreclosure rate and almost half of all borrowers are underwater, meaning they owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth. Florida foreclosures are rising again as more than 12,000 homeowners started the foreclosure process in July 2012, up 20 percent from July 2011 and the ninth straight month where foreclosure starts increased from a year ago.
Ohio — Hard-hit Ohio has the nation’s eighth-highest foreclosure rate. With 18 electoral votes, the electorally rich Rust Belt state of Ohio is crucial to winning the White House. Ohio has backed the winning candidate in the past 12 elections. But with unemployment painfully high, Obama faces a huge challenge to match his 2008 performance in this troubled Midwest state. And foreclosures are rising again. While July 2012 foreclosure starts decreased after three straight months of increases, more than 2,300 Ohio homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure during the month, an increase of 25 percent from July 2011.
Michigan — Ranked No. 7 in foreclosure rate, Michigan is a state where the economy will play a central role in the election, and where foreclosures and the government’s bailout of the auto industry will loom large. More than 4,000 Michigan homeowners started the foreclosure process in July 2012, an increase of 37 percent from July 2011. Republican challenger Mitt Romney was born and raised in Michigan, where his father was a popular governor. This will be a highly contested super-swing state, and Romney will fight hard, given his family ties, to win the Michigan’s 16 electoral votes.
Wisconsin — Since 2008, when president Obama was elected, bank-owned foreclosures have risen sharply in Wisconsin, selling at deep discounts that drag down overall housing prices. Romney’s running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, hails from Wisconsin and could help register the Badger State in the red column. More than 1,500 Wisconsin homeowners started the foreclosure process in July 2012, up 5 percent from July 2011. Democrats carried the state in the last six elections — often narrowly — but the Romney-Ryan ticket needs to convince Wisconsin voters that they will do a better job than the incumbent. Ten electoral votes hang in the balance in Wisconsin.
Nevada — With the highest unemployment and foreclosure rate in the nation, Romney has a good chance of convincing the voters in Nevada that the policies pursued by the Obama administration have not worked. Obama beat Republican John McCain four years ago, but many Nevada voters blame the White House for the lingering economic woes and the still wobbly housing sector. Nevada has the nation’s sixth-highest foreclosure rate and nearly 60 percent of all homeowners are underwater despite 18 consecutive months where foreclosure activity decreased on a year-over-year basis. The slowdown in foreclosure activity is at least partially the result of a new state law — AB 284 — that makes it harder to foreclosure in Nevada and has caused foreclosure filings to plummet since October 2011, when the new law was implemented. But a large Mormon population could help Romney win Nevada’s 6 electoral votes.
At this point, the 2012 election is shaping up to be much closer than 2008. Obama has the benefits of incumbency, but also a dismal economic record to run on. For Romney, the election is within his grasp, but the road to victory runs through these five foreclosure swing states, which collectively control 79 electoral votes.
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