“I’m calling on Congress to give every responsible homeowner the chance to save an average of $3,000 a year by refinancing their mortgage,” Obama said recently in Reno, an epicenter of the nation’s foreclosure crisis. “It’s a simple idea. It makes great sense. And I know it will have an impact.”
Obama delivered those remarks a few weeks ago on the driveway of a home that is underwater, meaning its owners, Val and Paul Keller, owe more on their mortgage ($168,000) than the house is worth ($100,000) — because of the collapse of the housing market. The president has proposed a new law to let more homeowners qualify for refinancing at low interest rates, thus improving the chances that they will hang onto their homes.
On Friday, Obama heads to Minnesota to promote a new program that helps returning veterans qualify for jobs as a result of their military experience.
He is making the nuanced bet that people have particular concerns because of where they live and what they do, and if he addresses those concerns, they’ll be more likely to vote for him. It is entirely unlike the one-size-fits-all economic sales pitch of the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney: We’re all still feeling the pain, so we need a new president.
The president’s strategy steers clear of that larger unease. It also raises the question of whether he is setting policy to win in politics. The White House and campaign reject that possibility, framing Obama’s economic approach as the right way to lift up the entire nation. Either way, it may be Obama’s only choice at an uncertain economic moment that history tells us does not work in his favor.
“It would not make sense to go do our big auto message in Nevada, where housing is the No. 1 issue,” said a senior Obama adviser who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the campaign.
Since mid-April, the president has delivered such tailored economic arguments in North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa; in some cases he’s visited these key swing states more than once. In addition, Vice President Biden has traveled to Michigan, Florida, Ohio and elsewhere to deliver what the campaign has dubbed “framing speeches” on such subjects as manufacturing, the auto bailout and protecting Medicare.