Tag Archives: foreclosures

Romney’s Nevada Problem

Nevada, to me, has been one of the bigger surprises this election cycle.  I fully expected this state to trend for Romney throughout the general election and fall into his column much like the trends we are seeing in Florida.  But for a myriad of reasons, Nevada remains stubbornly leaning towards Obama and plenty of tea leaves say Romney will likely underperform here relative to his national performance.  He may still win the state, but it will be closer than I expected it to be.  Scott Conroy at Real Clear Politics takes a look at what’s going on in Nevada that has buoyed the President:

If the key issues in the election are jobs and the economy, there should be no easier venue for Mitt Romney to make his case than in a state where it has been harder for residents to find work than anywhere else and where more than 60 percent of mortgages remain underwater. “Nevada gives us a lot of opportunities because people know that if they’re voting for Barack Obama, they’re voting for the same thing they have today,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. “The promises of Barack Obama matter, and he hasn’t followed through on housing. He hasn’t followed through on making it easier for people to get loans.” But so far, at least, that simple message has not been enough for Romney to overtake the president here. Obama leads his challenger by 4.6 percentage points in the latest RCP average of Nevada polls, and the Republican has not led in a single Silver State survey in the last year.

Housing comments haunt Romney

“As to what to do for the housing industry specifically, and are there things that you can do to encourage housing, one is don’t try and stop the foreclosure process,” Romney told the editorial board of the Las Vegas Review-Journal in October 2011. “Let it run its course and hit the bottom, allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up.” As soon as Romney’s “hit the bottom” remark was published, the sound bite became a linchpin for the Obama campaign’s effort to portray their opponent as insensitive to the struggles faced by the majority of homeowners here. With that one comment, Nevada Democrats had the ammunition they needed to make what might have otherwise been an impossible case: that the candidate who should be blamed for the state’s housing woes is the challenger, not the incumbent who has been guiding national policy for the last four years.

Voter Registration

Nevada Democrats have expanded the 60,000-person advantage in voter registration they enjoyed over Republicans in 2010 to about 75,000 this year. [ed. — It’s silly they didn’t compare it with the 100,000 advantage Democrats had on 2008 or if they wanted to show Romney struggles they could have used the wave of Democrat resurgence the last few weeks]

Hispanics

[T]he Obama campaign has invested heavily in reaching out to Hispanic voters, who composed approximately 15 percent of the state’s electorate in 2010 — a number that Democrats expect to be surpassed this November. Recent polls have shown Romney’s support among Nevada Latinos to be between the mid-20s and the mid-30s. Even if the higher end of the range is more accurate, that level of support among the state’s largest minority group likely would not be enough to push Romney over the top here on Election Day.

State party infrastructure

[T]he president’s biggest trump card in Nevada may be organizational rather than demographic. Jon Ralston — a longtime political reporter and analyst for the Las Vegas Sun, who recently founded his own Web site chronicling the state’s political scene — credits the Democrats’ sizable advantage on the ground as a major reason Obama appears to have an edge. “The Republicans here have to be upgraded in order to be classified as inept, and you just have this situation that goes against what the economic conditions are,” Ralston said. “The RNC has come in here, to their credit, and realized that the Republican Party here is a joke, and so they’ve essentially set up a parallel organization with the Romney campaign [Team Nevada]. And they do have some good people who understand the state, but you can’t just erect that type of infrastructure overnight and be able to get a ground game going.” It was Democrats’ infrastructure that proved particularly successful turning out members of Nevada’s powerful service industry unions in 2010, propelling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to victory despite favorability rating that hovered in the low-30s and a state unemployment that year rose above a grisly 14 percent.

The Battle for Nevada — The Buffalo News

Interesting story on the state of affairs in Nevada from The Buffalo News. They take and in-depth look at the lay of the land in this Battleground with its cross-currents of issues and needs through the eyes of some Buffalo ex-pats in the Silver State:

CoreLogic, a company that tracks real estate data, says 64.7 percent of Las Vegas-area homeowners were “under water” early this year – meaning the value of their homes plunged so far that they owe more on the mortgage than the place is worth. Welcome to Nevada, land of the endless Great Recession, where the 12.1 percent unemployment rate leads the nation and where President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, are fighting fiercely for six electoral votes and the loyalty of voters like John McGinty. The choice, undecided voters and some experts said, pits a Democratic president who has tried and failed to end an economic nightmare against a Republican who might just make things better – or worse. The real estate collapse that happened here and around the nation four years ago is not Obama’s fault, nor Romney’s. It’s the fault of a nation that turned its real estate market into Las Vegas – and left 60 percent of the homeowners in Nevada, and more than a third of those in Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Michigan, under water in the process. All the boom towns went on the same real estate roller coaster ride. As the government encouraged home ownership, banks took to bundling and selling off their mortgages in packages and relaxed lending standards along the way.

Las Vegas

The result was evident in Las Vegas by the mid-2000s. Fueled by such speculation, the median home value in Las Vegas shot up from $205,200 in January 2004 to a peak of $315,000 in June of 2006. But then came the financial crisis. Confidence fell, lending standards tightened, investors started bailing on their properties – and the median home price here plummeted to a low of $118,000 this January. It’s bounced back to $138,000 since then, but signs of the collapse can still be seen everywhere. Two would-be casinos on the Strip have stood unfinished for years. Started and abandoned developments dot the suburban landscape.

Housing bust reality

And at Johnny Mac’s, John McGinty finds himself handing out the occasional free lunch and personal loan to loyal customers in need. “I do what I can to help,” McGinty said. He does this while coping with a downturn in business and mortgage payments on a three-bedroom, 1,800-square-foot home he bought for $495,000 in the mid-2000s that, he reckons, is worth about $210,000 today. Countless Las Vegas homeowners, most of them speculators, have found themselves in McGinty’s situation and walked away, intentionally defaulting on their mortgages. Economic experts say the real estate crash wrecked consumer confidence and crushed the job market, leading to an unemployment rate that’s three full percentage points higher than Buffalo’s.

Frequent visitors, Different ideas

Obama and Romney have had plenty of time for Nevada. The president will arrive here today for three days of debate preparation; it’s his ninth visit of the campaign. Romney, meanwhile, has been here six times. Yet what they’re offering voters could not be more different.

The Obama Plan for Nevada

Obama sticks by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, which is aimed at curbing the excesses that caused the financial crisis. In addition, he touts elements of his 2009 stimulus bill that aimed to make it easier for troubled homeowners to refinance, or even to get lenders to agree to reduce the amount of principal on troubled loans, and criticizes Congress for not expanding the refinancing program as he suggested. The trouble is, banks seem to be reluctant to take part in the original Obama refinancing and principal-reduction programs, said Kelley, head of the Realtors group. Besides, many troubled homeowners have second mortgages – and the holders of those loans are not cooperating.

The Romney Plan for Nevada

Romney wants to repeal the Dodd-Frank law, saying it’s so burdensome that lenders are now reluctant to make home loans. He also offers varying free-market proposals for addressing the Nevada housing crisis. “Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process,” he told the Las Vegas Review Journal last October. “Let it run its course and hit the bottom.” And on a Sept. 21 trip to Sin City, the GOP nominee went a step further. “The federal government has about 200,000 foreclosed homes they are holding onto,” Romney said. “I’ll make sure we get them sold, so every home is occupied, we fix our neighborhoods,” The trouble with Romney’s comments is twofold, Las Vegas-area economic experts and political pundits said. First off, letting foreclosures move forward, or putting 200,000 more homes on the market all at once, very well could depress housing values further.
On the political side, Romney’s let-them-eat-cake comments on foreclosures reinforced the Democratic caricature of him as an out-of-touch plutocrat. “It’s a very bad sound byte for him,” said Jon Ralston, a Buffalo native and longtime Las Vegas political reporter who now publishes RalstonFlash.com, a political newsletter.

Ground game is key

Ralston finds it “astonishing” that Obama appears to have an edge in a state with a 12.1 percent unemployment rate, but that appears to be the case. The latest Real Clear Politics average of polls in the Silver State finds Obama 3.8 points ahead, and political pundits say there are plenty of explanations for that edge. “The state Republican party is very much a broken party,” said David Damore, a UNLV political scientist. Party control swung to a faction loyal to Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, in May. The result: the Romney campaign has had to build a get-out-the-vote effort from scratch to compete with a Democratic effort honed in Obama’s 2008 victory here and the re-election of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid two years later. “The Democrats have a very effective ground game,” said former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, a Democrat who nonetheless said the race remains “too close for any comfort.”

Demographics

Obama is getting a boost, too, from the state’s Hispanics, who now account for more than a quarter of the state population. Political pros here say heated GOP rhetoric on the immigration issue has helped propel the president to a 43-point lead among Hispanics in a Public Policy Polling survey last month. “A lot of (Hispanics) don’t understand how powerful the vote is,” said Arianni Valencia, 20, a Romney volunteer who specializes in reaching out to the Hispanic community. “They’re not even sure what it is to be a Republican or a Democrat. But they see the other side reaching out to them, and we’re trying to catch up.”

The deciding factor

Sherman Conley, 71, seemed to sum up the thoughts of many of the dozens of Nevada voters interviewed last week by The Buffalo News. “It’s a critical election,” said Conley, a Buffalo native, “and I’ve got to figure out who will do me the least amount of harm.”

The Nevada Battleground and Democrat Overconfidence

Reading so many articles every day, I am fascinated how often Democrats or mainstream media talk about Nevada as if it is a lock for Obama barring some huge upset.  No credible polling supports that thesis (PPP polls always over-represent Democrats) and plenty of polls reveal Romney is even leading.  But no matter the evidence, media still write headlines like “Nevada isn’t a sure bet for Obama?”  “Sure bet?” Is there a credible person out there arguing it IS a sure bet?  Regardless, the LA Times wrote that headline in an in-depth look at the Silver State:

For decades, casinos were the golden key to prosperity, luring in tourists, cranking out jobs around the clock and flooding the state treasury with a perpetual stream of cash. Those days are over…The local economy is in shambles, done in by the double whammy of the national recession and the rise of Indian casinos in California. Unemployment is rampant. That presents a serious challenge to President Obama as he tries to repeat his 2008 victory in Nevada, a key swing state then and now.

Battleground County

Washoe County, which includes Reno and neighboring Sparks, is the swing region of Nevada, and as such will play an outsized role in the presidential campaign between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. To the south, Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County is a Democratic and labor union stronghold. The rural counties that make up most of the rest of the state are overwhelmingly Republican. That leaves Washoe, where Republicans have a slight registration edge and once had a near lock on elections. That is no longer the case, as Obama proved in 2008 by winning the county with 55% of the vote, matching his percentage statewide. Washoe County “kind of holds the balance of power now,” said Dave Damore, a professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “Basically, if a Republican loses Washoe County, they lose the state.” That isn’t as true of a Democrat, as Bill Clinton demonstrated when he lost Washoe twice while winning the state by thumping opponents in the southern part. But a Republican blowout in Washoe would spell doom for any Democrat in a statewide race.

There have been no independent polls to show how the region is trending, but it seems fair to say that the economy has created a tough environment for any incumbent. By multiple measures, Nevada has been the hardest-hit state in the nation, with an unemployment rate that peaked at 13.7% in 2010 and remained the nation’s highest at 11.6% in May. Nevada’s home foreclosure rate fell to No. 2 in the nation (behind Arizona) in March after 62 months in the top spot.

Permanent change in Reno

The Las Vegas area suffered the most, but Reno was not far behind. And economists and local officials say much of the damage to Reno-area tourism is probably permanent. Unlike Las Vegas, with its international reputation, Reno has always been more of a regional attraction, drawing tourists from Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. With the advent of large, full-service Indian casinos in Northern California, many of those tourists have no reason to visit anymore. Bill Eadington, an economics professor and director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno, said his studies showed that gambling revenues from tourists in Reno declined by two-thirds between 1990 and 2010.

Continue reading

Battleground State Snapshots: Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Nevada

The Washington Post takes a look at four Battleground states and the driving factors in each that may determine its outcome in this election:

Between red states and blue states, the debate rages:

  • Has the government grown so big that it smothers us, or is it too small a raft to keep the most vulnerable from drowning?
  • Should we be more worried about the care and security promised our parents, or the debt we are leaving our children?
  • And in a nation built by wave after wave of mostly European immigrants, who should get to be an American? That issue has returned to the fore at a moment when the country has rounded a demographic corner: Whites no longer account for a majority of births.

This year’s election could very well turn on those questions — though it is not likely to settle them.

Most of the electoral battle will be fought in about a dozen swing states. Four of them — Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Nevada — also are the settings of intense Senate races. They will help determine control of that chamber and, with it, how much leverage the next president will have. Obama won these four states in 2008. But they now have Republican governors, all elected in the past four years, showing how unsettled their electoral landscapes are. They are being bombarded with political advertising, much of it negative, from the presidential campaigns and from outside groups. Here is what their emerging political contours look like.

Nevada: Economics and demographics

Nevada leads the nation in unemployment, though it showed some improvement in May, and has been one of the states hit hardest by housing foreclosures. The state is also seeing a demographic shift: Hispanics made up 3 percent of Nevada voters in 1996, but they accounted for 15 percent in 2008. Mormons make up about 7 percent of Nevada’s population but vote in large numbers. Polls showed that about a quarter of the participants in Nevada’s February GOP caucuses were Mormons, and Romney won them handily. He also won the caucuses.

Continue reading

Democrat Perspective: Why Obama Will Win Nevada

Despite my strong political leanings, I challenge myself to find thoughtful opposing views on important issues rather than fall into group-think by only viewing facts, figures, and reasoning that support my position.  With this in mind I hope to regularly feature a liberal view or two arguing against Romney or for Obama in a given Battleground state. With Mitt Romney fundraising in Nevada right now I figure that state is as good as any to kick-off this feature. Tom Kludt at Talking Points Memo took an extensive look at the problems in Nevada and why it should be fertile ground for Romney yet still favors Obama.

From a distance, the state should favor Romney based on 3 factors:

Continue reading