Las Vegas, Nevada is a town that is down on its luck.
It has been hit harder by the downturn than most. The amount of money being spent in casinos has shrunk by a fifth in the last two years.
For a city nicknamed The Capital of Second Chances, its residents are not yet seeing signs of a reprieve. Around 80 percent of home owners live in a property that is now worth less than they paid for it.
At nearly 15 percent, unemployment in Nevada is well above the US national average of 9.6 percent.
Of those with mortgages, nearly a quarter (23.6 percent) are having problems paying them or have already seen their homes repossessed. That is compared to a national rate of 14 percent.
In that context, top Democrat Harry Reid risked being voted out of the Senate seat he has held since the mid-80s. As Senate Majority Leader he was one political heavy weight that President Obama desperately did not want to lose.
At a Democrat rally in Las Vegas last week, Obama told supporters: “If I am going to be able to help middle-class families all across this country live out their dreams, then I want to have a partner in the United States Senate named Harry Reid.”
Reid has been instrumental in guiding Obama’s reforms, most notably in healthcare, through the upper house of Congress. Defending the Healthcare Bill in the Senate, he told his colleagues: “Affording to live a healthy life isn’t about politics or partisanship or polling! Mr. President, it’s about people. It’s about life and death in America. It’s a question of morality, about right and wrong.”
Reid’s liberal rhetoric made him one of the Republican’s most sought-after scalps. Reid faced ultraconservative Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle. And where Reid had Obama defending him, Angle has Tea Party poster girl Sarah Palin to help her attack.
At one recent Tea Party rally, Palin pulled no punches when it came to Reid, saying: “You shook the foundation of our economy by shoving over and taking over and bailing out, cramming through Socialist-type policies, shoving aside the little guy. You shook our economy. So our message is ‘we don’t work for you any more, Mr Reid. Enjoy your retirement’.”
But it was not to be. Reid prevailed in the brutal battle. After the result was known he said he was determined to renew the struggle to create jobs and bolster the economy. “The bell that just rang isn’t the end of the fight. It’s the start of the next round,” Reid told jubilant supporters in Nevada.