Out on the campaign trail, Republican presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich hasn't shown a ton of empathy toward the millions going through foreclosures. But maybe his new Florida campaign chief can change his tune with his own personal story of housing hell. Former Marco Rubio campaign chief Jose Mallea -- who was just hired this week to direct Gingrich's Sunshine State efforts -- has a house in Coral Way in foreclosure proceedings.
Mallea is a well-connected local GOP operative with ties to City Hall and Jeb Bush's administration, but his star rose last year when he ran Marco Rubio's Tea Party-tastic rise to the U.S. Senate.
Gingrich, who has lately been rocketing up the polls in Florida, picked him on Monday to head his efforts in the state, presumably in a bid to tie his campaign to Rubio's golden boy act with local voters.
Mallea is fighting the Branch Banking and Trust Company in Miami-Dade Circuit Court over a mortgage foreclosure on a property at SW 27th Ave. and 13th Street, records show.
The bank filed for foreclosure on the house last April, and property records show that Mallea is well underwater on the home. He bought it along with Helena Poleo in February 2008 -- aka the height of Miami's housing bubble -- for $290,000. Today, it's valued at almost half that, at $159,000.
Mallea, who also owns Coral Gables' Local Craft Food & Drink, didn't respond to a message left at his restaurant or to another left with Gingrich's national press office. Poleo, reached on her cell phone, referred comment to Mallea.
So what does Newt think about guys like his Florida chief of staff who end up in foreclosure?
Well, in recent debates he's pushed for a repeal of the Democratic legislation that forces banks to work with debtors who are underwater. Gingrich argues that with no rules in place, banks will have more freedom to help struggling homeowners.
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It's a curious argument that even Greta Van Sustren has trouble digesting: