The mortgage aid plan President Obama is offering to draw a contrast with Mitt Romney is based in part on an idea by Romney's senior economic adviser. It fits a pattern: Obama gets frustrated by Republican refusal to pass anything he proposes so he dares them to oppose an idea he stole from them. So far the G.O.P. seems unbothered by the strategem. 

 

The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman and Patrick O'Connor talked to Romney's adviser, R. Glenn Hubbard, dean of Columbia University's business school, who said that if Obama's plan "is the mass refinancing we suggest, it could be a very big deal," Hubbard told the Journal. Assuming Hubbard doesn't mean "big deal" in a bad way, Romney does not appear to be taking his advice. The candidate told the Las Vegas Review Journal last week: "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 to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom ..."

This isn't the first time Obama has leaned on Romney's advisers -- the guys who created Romney's health care overhaul went to the White House in 2009 to help Obama create his. And the president's housing proposal, which would allow people who owe more than their homes are worth to lower their payments with cheaper mortgages, has some support among congressional Republicans. Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson called it "a no-brainer," for example. His jobs plan featured temporary payroll tax cuts, which were supported by top Republican senators several times between 2001 and 2010. Many Republicans back his proposal to defer a 3 percent tax on government contractors, though the Senate wasn't able to overcome a Republican filibuster last week. And, of course, his health care overhaul stole ideas from the Heritage Foundation's plan in the 1990s, and, of course, Romney's in 2006.
 
But it's not "Republican obstructionism" that's keeping 2012 candidates from supporting his housing aid. The Journal explains Republican candidates have been skittish about offering help to people with houses they can't afford since John McCain proposed buying up those mortgages in the 2008 campaign, not to mention Rick Santelli's rant on CNBC in 2009 about not wanting to pay for a neighbor's extra bathroom.
 
After the Las Vegas Republican debate, the state party chair complained that the candidates hadn't offered specifics on housing -- important in a state that The Hill's Sam Youngman calls "ground zero for the housing crisis." Romney said "the right course is to let markets work." And that's why Obama announced his plan in Las Vegas Monday, in what Politico's Jennifer Epstein and Glenn Thrush call "a desperate bid to revive the housing market -- and to make Mitt Romney pay" for being all laissez-faire about the crisis. When White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked if Obama was trying to draw a contrast with Romney's position, Carney said, "I have heard that Gov. Romney said something like that, yes." Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston told Politico, "Obama is clearly directing this at Romney and the other Republicans, and they have left themselves open ... The problem for Obama is that his new plan, like the old one, probably won't be enough to help people here."