Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012 | 8:51 p.m.
When he was campaigning in Nevada, Mitt Romney said he thought the federal government should steer clear of the housing crisis, letting the free market work, even if that meant allowing things “to bottom out.”
But in his victory speech after the Michigan primary Tuesday night, Romney was openly critical of President Barack Obama for not doing more to “tackle the housing crisis” during his first term — especially when he had a supermajority in the Senate to help him.
Romney's comments came as he rattled off suggestions of policy endeavors in which Obama might better have spent his time in the early days of his presidency, instead of tackling a health care bill and "putting us on a path toward debt and deficits and decline."
It’s a standard part of his stump speech. The nod to housing, however, is not.
The idea that Obama should have tackled housing more forcefully is a refrain often voiced in hard-hit states like Nevada, even by some Democrats. But it’s a curious paradox for Romney, who has stuck by his assertion that a market free from government intervention is best to restore normalcy to homeowners, lenders and mortgages since he first made the comments to the editorial board of the Las Vegas Review-Journal in October.
Romney's hands-off approach to housing is the one area of his policy platform with which many Nevada Republicans, even some who endorse him, have either taken issue or agreed to disagree.
That legacy made Romney's comments Tuesday night all the more surprising.
But Romney's sudden turn to suggest the government ought to have taken a far stronger role tackling the housing crisis was likely more of a sign that he’s feeling good enough to go off-script on the campaign trail, rather than an indication he is re-writing his housing policy.
Romney was not a shoo-in to win Michigan, his home state, which he appeared set to carry by slightly less than a 4 percent margin Tuesday night. It's not exactly what they were looking for, but better than losing to top challenger Rick Santorum.
“We didn't win by a lot,” Romney said, “but we won by enough, and that's all that counts."