If you want to know how the 2008 presidential election was won you need to look no further than the nation's biggest foreclosure centers.
Seven of the top 10 foreclosure states voted Republican in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, while three states went Democratic. This time around the Democrats captured eight of the top 10 foreclosure states.
The difference in terms of electoral votes is significant. In the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections today's 10 leading foreclosure states produced 97 electoral votes for George Bush and 87 votes for Al Gore (2000) and John Kerry (2004) In 2008 the top-10 states generated 159 electoral votes for Obama — and just 25 for McCain.
“The importance and urgency of the foreclosure crisis plainly impacted the national elections,” says Jim Saccacio, Chairman and CEO at RealtyTrac.com, the leading online marketplace for foreclosure listings and data. “It will not be possible for local home values to rise until we reduce the foreclosure inventory. This means we must slash the number of homes being lost to foreclosure each month and we must also reduce the number of homes now owned by lenders.”
Saccacio added that “the economic problems we have are as close as the foreclosed house down the street. Already 20 percent of all mortgage borrowers have homes that are worth less than the debt they secure. The message of this election could not be more clear: Wall Street needs help — but so do Main Street, Elm Street and Oak Street.”
In October 2007 I wrote that the presidential election could be won by any candidate who carried the purple states — not the red states or the blue states, but the 10 states with the highest foreclosure levels.
The logic was that these states could be seen as a distinguishable voting block because they had a shared experience — massive numbers of foreclosures. Big foreclosure numbers suggested that local home values had taken a pounding. In turn, lower home values meant smaller property tax collections, fewer government services and reductions among state government workers.
When I wrote last year figures from RealtyTrac.com showed that the 10 states with the most foreclosures at the time were, in order, Nevada, Florida, California, Michigan, Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, Colorado, Texas and Indiana.
These states represented 203 of the 270 electoral votes needed for a presidential election victory. A candidate who could carry the purple states at that time would need just 67 additional electoral votes to win the White House.
This year the list is largely unchanged. The latest RealtyTrac data shows that the top 10 foreclosure states include Nevada, Florida, California, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, Indiana and Colorado. New Jersey has been added to the list while Texas is now ranked 24th for foreclosures, a substantial improvement.
In terms of electoral votes we swapped Texas (34 electoral votes) from the first list for New Jersey (15 electoral votes), a net reduction of 19 electoral votes. In total, the current purple coalition states have 184 electoral votes.
So how did the current members of the purple states coalition vote? With historic data from RealClearPolitics.com let's look at the results:
- Arizona (10 electoral cotes) Voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. In 2008 Arizona voted for McCain.
- California (55 electoral cotes) Voted for Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004. In 2008 California voted for Obama.
- Colorado (9 electoral cotes) Voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. In 2008 Colorado voted for Obama.
- Florida (27 electoral cotes) Voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. In 2008 Florida voted for Obama.
- Georgia (15 electoral cotes) Voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. In 2008 Georgia voted for McCain.
- Indiana (11 electoral cotes) Voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. In 2008 Indiana voted for Obama.
- Michigan (17 electoral cotes) Voted for Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004. In 2008 Michigan voted for Obama.
- Nevada (5 electoral cotes) Voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. In 2008 Nevada voted for Obama.
- New Jersey (15 electoral cotes) Voted for Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004. In 2008 New Jersey voted for Obama.
- Ohio (20 electoral cotes) Voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. In 2008 Ohio voted for Obama.
The Texas Factor
Texas (34 electoral votes) — which was on the top 10 foreclosure list in 2007 — voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004, and for McCain in 2008. It has been replaced on the latest top-10 list by New Jersey (15 electoral votes).
The question raised by Texas is whether the state would have voted for Obama in 2008 had it remained among the top-10 foreclosure states. McCain in 2008 rolled up a substantial lead, winning 55 percent of the state's votes compared to 44 percent for Obama. A 6 percent change in the Lone Star vote would have produced a different outcome.
Could higher foreclosure levels in Texas have generated a different electoral result? There's no way to know, but given the voting shift seen among the leading foreclosure states in 2008 it's not unreasonable to think that the answer would be “yes” — a notion which will not go unnoticed by politicians nationwide.
Peter G. Miller is the author of the Common-Sense Mortgage and is syndicated in more than 100 newspapers.