HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Look no further than Nevada — and this swing voting city — to understand why President Barack Obama may not win re-election next fall.

Unemployment has grown to 13.4 percent, well above the national average, in recent months. The state has the highest foreclosure rate and record bankruptcies. And shuttered casinos collect dust along the glittering Las Vegas Strip that’s usually a robust artery of jobs.

“Obama’s hope hasn’t done anything,” grouses Larry James, a security guard who moved here from Philadelphia for work a decade ago, back when the state was booming.

It’s so bad here that even the president’s fans worry about the country firing him — and Nevadans helping.

“I’m afraid for Obama,” frets Linda Overby.

The state is filled with people like Overby and her husband, who lost their union painting jobs and began paying their mortgage with unemployment checks in April. They’d like to look for work elsewhere but they are “underwater” — they owe more for their mortgage than what their home is worth. The value has dropped from $330,000 to $88,000 in six years. And her household income has declined from $2,000 to $650 a week.

Such statistics, comments and stories shed light on why Nevada is one of the Republican Party’s targets to pick up come November 2012 — and why Democrats are worried.

It also explains why Nevada is abuzz in national political activity this week.

Leaders of both major political parties are descending on the state to plot strategy and rally activists as they gird for the tough presidential election year ahead in a state that helped elect Bill Clinton twice, George W. Bush twice and then went for Obama by a comfortable 12 percentage point margin in 2008.

Democratic luminaries and lawmakers spent much of the weekend organizing their Project New West summit that opened Sunday, a conference dedicated to winning 2012.

Republican presidential candidates were in town for a Tuesday night GOP primary debate. Many of them were bookending the debate with retail appearances and speeches at the Western Republican Leadership Conference in the state that’s slated to hold its nominating caucuses Jan. 14.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul was using the week as a backdrop to roll out parts of his policy agenda, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney planned a campaign party Monday and former pizza executive Herman Cain had plans to visit several local GOP groups throughout the week.

No matter who the party nominates, the GOP is certain to dump piles of money and tons of manpower into the state to try to thwart another Obama victory here. If Romney is the nominee, he’d benefit from a population of fellow Mormons in the state. Conversely, Texas Gov. Rick Perry — Romney’s chief rival — could conceivably have the support of tea partyers and some segment of Hispanics.

Even without a nominee, Republicans are courting Mormons — a small constituency that votes at a high rate and promotes civic activity — as well as veterans, military members and retirees, constituencies that typically lean toward the GOP.

Democrats are girding for a tough fight regardless of who Obama faces.

They point to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s victory as proof that a Democrat can be re-elected in Nevada despite the economic turmoil. They note the growth among Democrats, who now boast a 101,633 voter advantage statewide. And they hold out hope that the robust Hispanic population here — they make up 15 percent of the electorate — will tilt toward Democrats en mass.

But Reid faced a deeply flawed tea party candidate in Sharron Angle. And the state now has a Hispanic governor in Brian Sandoval, a Republican, who could make inroads with this pivotal constituency.

Even so, the Democratic Party machine that helped Reid beat nearly all odds and win another term last fall hopes to do the same for Obama next fall.

To win, both sides must turn out their respective party loyalists as well as woo Nevada’s many independent voters in Reno, government-centric Carson City — and especially Henderson.

It was the setting of Nevada’s closest state races last year, both decided by fewer than 408 votes.

The congressional district that encompasses Henderson has predicted which party will win the House for the past two election cycles. Voters here gave a Republican the boot in 2008, only to kick out the winner in 2010, replacing Democratic Rep. Dina Titus with Republican Rep. Joe Heck. His 1 percent victory margin was not exactly a clear message from voters.

He points to migration patterns to explain why voters here are anything but homogenous.

“People are coming from all across the country with values and views that they developed in New Jersey, Alaska, Texas, and we have become that melting pot of ideas,” Heck said.

Nowhere is the divide between Democrats and Republicans thinner than in southeastern Henderson, Nevada’s second largest city. Republicans outnumber Democrats here by 2,500 votes. Nearly 80 percent of the residents are white, and many are middle-aged.

Listen to the voices of people here and it’s clear nobody is happy. Less clear is who they will blame for their woes next fall.

“We need someone different from the kind of politicians we have,” says Rachel Kauffman. The 34-year-old mother usually votes Republican, like most of her family, but is registered as an independent voter — ripe for Democrats and Republicans alike to court.

She doesn’t know who she will vote for next fall.

But she knows this much: “We can’t take four more years of this.”

Democrat Ed Long faults everyone.

“I would like more leadership out of Obama, but I would say the same of the Republicans,” said Long, who moved from Phoenix to Henderson five years ago to work as an electrician. “I don’t see a single jobs bill come out of Congress that helps the people. It’s disillusioning.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (11)
  1. zee the reporter says:

    the GOP ticket is a joke!

    1. stubby says:

      Tell us why the ticket is a joke. I t’s easy to blast a party and never exlpain why. At least I can tell you why obama is a failure. Granted, he inherited a lousy economy but…he knew that going in. In 2008 he begged for the job, telling America he would turn things around and restore the economy. Hope and change is all we heard. Three years later, 14 trillion in new debt, unemployment over 9%, foreclosers starting to increase again, foodstamps useage at a record levels, still at war in the middle east and now we are getting into Africa. Now the dem’s are backpeddeling on the healthcare mess, cancelling a major part of it. So tell us zee, what does obama have to run on? See if you can do it without saying “Bush”.

      1. Citizen says:

        @stubby. Your party of “no” blames President Obama for doing nothing and then blames him for doing everything! Which is it? You can’t have it both ways.

        1. stubby says:

          Citizen, they say no to the bad policies of obama. His 1st trillion dollar stimulius did nothing to create jobs, stop foreclosers, reduce foodstamp useage. Now he wants to spend half a trillion more following the same outline as the first one. When he won election and has a majority in both houses, he told the repubs they could come along for the ride but had to sit in the back and be quiet. Nancy P. told the repubs, shut-up, we won. So, tell me, why should they go along with policies they know won’t work. Tell me what policies the dems have put forward that worked.

        2. dan says:

          @ Citizen
          Easy explanation: “Everything” he has done has created “No” long term jobs. He got into office blaming the other party and he will run for re-election blaming the other party even though he had 2 full years of Democratic control to do what? Oh yeah pass ObamaCare.
          Lets see what was more important, jobs or ObamaCare?

  2. Citizen says:

    For dan and stubby. Here is the Dismal Political Economist’s summation of the GOP jobs plan. Enjoy!

    “Senate Republicans have set out a jobs creation package of their own. However just calling something a jobs creation package does not mean that if the package were passed it would create a large number of jobs. In fact even if the Republican package were passed it would mean only a small reduction in unemployment, if that. Here are some of the highlights:.

    No new federal regulations would be allowed until unemployment was 7.7%. This of course repeats the Republican mantra that regulations are killing the jobs market, a position totally unsupported by any evidence provided by Republican, because they have no evidence that current regulations are preventing job growth.

    The ACA (Obama care) would be repealed. Exactly how making health care affordable and available in 2014, which is when the major provisions of the law take affect, is hurting the job market today is left to one’s imagination.

    The Dodd Frank Financial regulations law would be repealed. Allowing financial firms to engage in destructive practices harms the economy, see 2001- present, but helps the Republican base, so even though no jobs are created it still is something Republicans want to do.

    Congress would pass a Balanced Budget Amendment. If implemented an immediate balanced budget would cut government spending so severely that it would bring on a huge recession. Huge recessions do not create jobs.

    Top corporate and individual tax rates would drop to 25%. While this would be paid for by changes in the tax code, the net result would be to shift more of the tax burden to the middle class. This cuts their spending ability and produces job losses.

    Corporations could repatriate foreign profits with reduced taxes. Since corporations already are awash with cash, this would simply increase idle corporate cash balances, but do little else to help the economy.

    Restrictions on off shore oil drilling would be removed. The thinking may be that having another BP type oil spill would increase employment in the environmental remediation business.

    Republicans claimed they wanted to have a “conversation” with Democrats,

    But senators said outright that the plan’s goal was to undo the Obama agenda. Asked which pieces of the plan they believed Democrats might be most likely to embrace, they named only its emphasis on tax reform.

    At least they get some points for honesty, and would get even more if they renamed their plan “The Job Killing Plan Which Will Cause Mr. Obama to Not Be Re-Elected”. Actually they don’t need to do that, everyone knows what they are trying to do here.”

    1. Carl says:

      @ Citizen,
      I will just comment on one of the Dismal Lib Papers comments as it is close to what I do.
      The Dodd Frank Bill is one of the largest job killers in the financial/mortgage sector. The small business’ that were effected and eventually closed due to this bill are astounding. Ask anyone in the Appraisal business. Over 50% of them have closed their doors. Mortgage companies have laid off over 75% of their workforce after Dodd Frank bill was signed into law.
      So yes, repealing this law will bring jobs back and start to support small business rather than regulate them out of business.
      There is a difference between reporting the news and forming an opinion about the news. What would your response be if I cited FOX News about Obama not being a US Citizen?

    2. dan says:

      Wow, citizen, you are really pushing the envelope today. So your arguement is that we should not pass a Balanced Budget Amendment as it would cause a huge recession. What professional journalists uses the word “huge”? So I guess you figure Bankrupting the US is much more viable as long as we keep “buying” jobs?
      Dropping the tax code to 25%? Interesting that after GE CEO became one of Obama’s Czar’s he paid zero corporate taxes?? Since you dont have the facts on what changes will be made to the tax code how can you assume the burden will be shifted onto the middle class? Oh that’s right scare tactics work best.
      Time to start reading a news source rather than the rag magazines.

  3. stubby says:

    What a slanted piece of garbage. I could cut and paste 20 articles saying the exact opposite of what you just wrote. I guess all we have to go on then is how much your buddy obama has made the economy worse. How his policies have not worked and how he wants to do more of the same. Citizen, you and I will never agree, but you must agree at lease, the last 3 years of obama have not made things better, for if they did, you wouldn’t have protesters in the streets and articles like this one. Why do you love this guy so much?

  4. lee says:


  5. King Owebama says:

    Heil Barack Hussein (Barry Soetoro) Owebama!

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