But that sentiment coexists with the notion that something has to be done -- that's why Democrats pounced so gleefully on Romney's statement last week that the government should "let [the foreclosure process] run its course and hit the bottom." On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney took a shot at Romney's statement, saying, "That's not a solution."
All of this has unfolded against the backdrop of Las Vegas, the nation's foreclosure capital, where half-built subdivisions decorate the sprawling edges of the metropolitan area. The state's governor, Brian Sandoval, and junior senator, Dean Heller, both Republicans, have both said they disagree with Romney's hands-off position.
In the politics of housing, "On the one hand, there is some of that Rick Santelli rage," said Matt Bennett of the center-left think tank Third Way, a former Clinton administration official. "There's real discontent over the idea that people who acted irresponsibly are getting a bailout or a break, while people who are struggling to manage their underwater mortgage while paying their bills aren't.
"On the other hand, there's the idea that the government had better do something, because this crisis is destroying property values, destroying neighborhoods, and greatly dragging down the economy generally."
There's a hard-right position -- that government should stay out and let markets take their course, without trying to mitigate the collateral damage. And there's a hard-left position -- that the government should just bail out homeowners the way it bailed out banks, regardless of whether they "deserve" it. Both are broadly unpalatable.
And so when the Republican candidates were asked about housing last week, Rick Santorum promptly changed the subject: "The problem is, in the first place, is that several people up here ... supported the TARP, supported the bailout," he said, prompting a back-and-forth with Rick Perry over whether that was true.
Romney didn't back down from his statement about letting foreclosures proceed, saying, "The idea of the federal government running around and saying ... we're going to keep banks from foreclosing if you can't make your payments, these kind of actions on the part of government haven't worked." Herman Cain seconded that notion.
Michele Bachmann talked about the emotional attachment of "moms" to their "nests." "President Obama has failed you on this issue of housing and foreclosures," she said. "I will not fail you on this issue. ... Hold on, moms out there. It's not too late."
Like Bachmann, Romney has slammed Obama for not fixing the housing mess even as he's shied away from offering a fix of his own.
"President Obama's Broken Promises on Housing Have Devastated Nevada," blared the headline of a Romney press release pegged to Obama's visit Monday. His campaign also issued a dramatic video, "Welcome to Nevada, President Obama," featuring local residents detailing their economic woes. "We need real leadership in Washington so that we can get out of the hole that we're in," one man says.