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Florida: the worst economy the GOP has seen yet

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Iowa’s economy survived the recession pretty well. Same for New Hampshire. South Carolina has struggled a bit more. But Florida, where voters will go to the polls later today, was one of states that the crisis hit the hardest, and it still hasn’t recovered. SOURCE: AFP/GETTY IMAGES Mitt Romney addresses supporters in Lehigh, Florida.

Last year, Florida also had the seventh-highest foreclosure rate in the country, and it trailed only California in terms of the total number of foreclosures overall. That’s actually an improvement over 2010, when Florida’s foreclosure rate was the highest in the nation. And 2012 is expected to be another bad year for the Sunshine State, as banks that have held off on foreclosing properties push more homeowners out, depressing home-prices and the real-estate market even further.

The foreclosure crisis has held back the rest of the Florida’s economy as well. The state’s unemployment rate the seventh-highest in the country, at 9.9 percent, well above the 8.5 percent national average. The tourism and hospitality industry did rebound in 2010 and 2011, giving a lift to Orlando and the surrounding region in central Florida. But southern Florida, the epicenter of the state’s foreclosure crisis, is still lagging far behind in terms of employment and job creation. The weak economy has also hurt the state’s budget, with tax revenues down $1.6 billion less than expected in 2011.

Such realities have shaped the GOP presidential candidates’ campaigns in the state as well. Mitt Romney--who has a big lead in the latest polls before the primary--softened his position on housing, suggesting there’s some room for government involvement, and made a concerted effort to seem sympathetic toward foreclosure victims. Newt Gingrich, for his part, doubled down on his effort to portray Romney has an out-of-touch vulture capitalist. And up next on the primary schedule is in Nevada, another state that’s continuing to suffer from the ravages of the foreclosure crisis.

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