Washington Extra – Home alone

January 20, 2012

When it comes to fixing the housing market in this election year, it’s a battle between the “ineffective” and the “do-nothing.”

President Obama’s relief measures for homeowners facing foreclosure have fallen far short of objectives. Republican candidates, meanwhile, prefer to let the marketplace work its magic. Prices will then hit bottom and begin to recover.

The hands-off approach might not cause too much damage to Republicans in South Carolina. But when the race moves to foreclosure-heavy states such as Florida and Nevada, Republican candidates could find themselves having to explain why they don’t want to help any homeowners.

Obama can’t show much in the way of results, but he can reveal a bit of a heart. And he’ll get another chance to show that in next week’s State of the Union, where he is expected to offer another gesture of support for troubled homeowners.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

South Carolina debate critical for Romney as Gingrich looms

Republican presidential candidates meet again for perhaps the most crucial debate yet in the 2012 campaign, with front-runner Mitt Romney beginning to look shaky and likely to face fire from nearest challenger Newt Gingrich. It is the final chance for rivals to chip away at Romney’s lead in South Carolina ahead of the primary vote.

For more of this story by Sam Youngman, read here.

Perry: the candidate who couldn’t shoot straight

Rick Perry rode into the Republican nomination high in the saddle, with Marlboro Man good looks, strong financial backing from home state loyalists and a record of economic success as Texas governor. But it turned out that the plain-spoken presidential candidate from flyspeck Paint Creek, Texas, was all hat and no cattle. From his wipe-out debate performances to his awkward defense of U.S. soldiers who urinated on dead Afghans, the Perry never lived up to his early potential.

For more of this story by Samuel P. Jacobs, read here.

Republicans’ stance on housing recovery carries risks

Rick Santorum has a blunt message for voters such as Jim Shackleford who are trapped by falling housing prices: You’re on your own. Republican candidates say the government should do little to ease the housing crisis that plunged the country into recession. They say President Obama’s efforts to help homeowners avoid foreclosure have prolonged the pain by delaying a correction in the housing market. Few issues capture the contrasting views about government obligations to help citizens as vividly as the housing crisis.

For more of this story by Andy Sullivan, read here.

South Carolina Democrats unamused by Colbert’s ploy

Late-night TV comedian Stephen Colbert is urging his South Carolina fans to cast votes in Saturday’s Republican presidential primary for former candidate Herman Cain, a way Colbert says he will gauge support for his own mock presidential campaign. Who is not laughing? South Carolina Democrats.

For more of this story by Alina Selyukh and Harriet McLeod, read here.

Democrats to press advantage in U.S. payroll tax cut fight

Congressional Democrats in talks to extend a tax cut will to try to extract concessions from Republicans who are anxious to avoid a repeat of last month’s battle over the payroll tax. Democrats plan to push to renew some tax breaks for businesses and individuals that expired at the end of December, potentially complicating the payroll tax cut negotiations between the Democratic-led Senate and Republican-led House of Representatives.

For more of this story by Donna Smith, read here.

In Keystone wake, Obama campaign touts energy in first ad

President Obama’s re-election campaign sought to manage fallout from his decision to nix a new oil pipeline, putting up its first television ad of 2012 to promote his energy record. Obama came under heated criticism from Republicans for deciding to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. The campaign’s first major ad buy reflected the seriousness with which it views energy as a potential weakness going into the 2012 contest.

For more of this story, read here.

Obama orders streamlining of foreign tourist visas

President Obama ordered the streamlining of applications for foreign tourist visas to the United States, focused on increasingly affluent Chinese and Brazilian visitors, in an effort to boost tourism and create jobs. Obama announced the modest package of reforms at the Disney World theme park in Florida, a state whose economy is heavily dependent on the tourist industry.

For more of this story by Alister Bull, read here.

U.S. economy improves but obstacles remain

The number of Americans filing for new jobless benefits dropped to a near four-year low last week and factory activity in the mid-Atlantic expanded moderately, suggesting the economy carried some momentum into the new year. But the pace of growth probably will slow. Analysts cautioned the drop in claims likely was exaggerated by seasonal factors, and the slow pace of new orders in the factory report plus a drop in new hom

For more of this story by Lucia Mutikani, read here.

From elsewhere…

TransCanada open to building Keystone in segments

TransCanada may build a $2 billion southern portion of its Keystone XL oil pipeline first following the initial rejection of the full-blown project, which would mesh with one of President Obama’s goals but put it in direct competition with another major proposal. TransCanada had broached the idea of constructing the Gulf Coast expansion part of the Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline before as a way to help alleviate an oil glut at the Cushing, Oklahoma, storage hub and get more crude to Texas refineries, but Chief Executive Russ Girling said it has now gained in priority.

For more of this exclusive story, read here.

For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

Photo Credits: REUTERS/Lee Celano (blighted house in New Orleans); REUTERS/Chris Keane (Perry with wife Anita)

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