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Why Obama is unveiling mortgage relief plan on Super Tuesday

President Obama will announce a mortgage relief plan to help some 3 million homeowners. Is it coincidence that Obama's first news conference since November is during Super Tuesday?

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An auction sign in front of a home, in Salem, Ore.

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

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President Barack Obama is aiming mortgage relief at members of the military as well as homeowners with government-insured loans, the administration's latest efforts to address a persistent housing crisis.

In his first full news conference of the year Tuesday, Obama was to announce plans to let borrowers with mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration refinance at lower rates, saving the average homeowner more than $1,000 a year. Obama also was detailing an agreement with major lenders to compensate service members and veterans who were wrongfully foreclosed upon or denied lower interest rates.

The efforts Obama is announcing do not require congressional approval and are limited in comparison with the vast expansion of government assistance to homeowners that he asked Congress to approve last month. That $5 billion to $10 billion plan would make it easier for more borrowers with burdensome mortgages to refinance their loans.

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Obama is holding the news conference (at 1:15 pm EST)  in the midst of a modestly improving economy. But international challenges as well as a stubbornly depressed housing market remain threats to the current recovery and to his presidency.

Obama has not held a full news conference since November. The White House scheduled this one on the same day as the 10-state Super Tuesday Republican presidential nominating contests. While aides insisted the timing was coincidental, it follows a pattern of Obama seeking the limelight when the attention is on the GOP.

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