Richard Wood of Bradenton, Fla. said that when he told Mitt Romney about his financial struggles, the former Massachusetts governor showed genuine compassion.
"I felt that he felt our pain," Wood said in an interview. "I think he was concerned about what's going on."
Wood, 62, was one of eight Floridians who discussed their economic problems with Romney in a Tampa hotel conference room on Monday morning.
Wood said he'd folded his title insurance company and that he and his wife were considering filing for bankruptcy. He told Romney that he had three investment properties headed back to the bank and that he expected his lender to pursue a $200,000 deficiency judgment. Worse yet: "We have been exploring the possibility of moving to another country where we might be able to live on our retirement and our Social Security."
Romney did not hesitate in his response. "Yeah. It's just tragic, isn't it? Just tragic, just tragic," he said, adding that banks are too hesitant recognize losses via foreclosures.
"The banks are scared to death, of course, because they think they're going to go out of business," Romney said. "They're afraid that if they write all these loans off, they're going to go broke. And so they're feeling the same thing you're feeling."
Wood said he and his wife had considered moving to Panama, but that it's possible they won't end up leaving. He said their own home is not in foreclosure. He had attended the roundtable, he said, at the invitation of a neighbor who works for the Romney campaign who knew business had been bad.
"I've been through some slowdowns and so forth but nobody ever thought it'd be anything like this," Wood said. "I decided I could no longer afford the mortgage payments about a year ago."
Florida had the seventh highest foreclosure rate of any state in 2011, according to data firm RealtyTrac. Romney has advocated a "hands off" approach to the foreclosure crisis, but he has also said the government should have a role in helping lenders negotiate with homeowners.
Wood said Romney's compassion hadn't quite won his vote.
"I'm not decided yet," he said. "I like Santorum. We share the same values, but I don’t think he really has a shot ... Newt Gingrich, I like his fire. I've always thought he was brilliant. I think it would be some interesting debates if it were him against the president."