- Associated Press - Friday, May 11, 2012

LOS ANGELES — President Barack Obama is turning his attention back to the economy after a day spent raising millions of dollars for his campaign and riding a media wave on his newly declared support for same-sex marriage.

Obama was to promote housing policies to help homeowners avoid foreclosure in a quick visit Friday to struggling Nevada, which ranks second in the nation in foreclosed homes and has the highest unemployment in the country.

Obama won in Nevada in his 2008 presidential election. But the economy presents new challenges as well as an opportunity for his Republican rival, Mitt Romney.

Four years ago, Nevada was economically reeling from the recession and Obama and union allies seized on the anxiety to mobilize voters and win the state. Today, the Nevada is still in dire straits and the economy belongs to the president.

Obama was stopping in Reno, looking to shore up his support and draw attention to housing proposals that he says Congress must pass to help homeowners struggling with their mortgages.

“Obviously it is the swing state that has recovered the slowest of any. It was hit the hardest,” said Matt Bennett of Third Way, a centrist Democratic group that has examined the landscape in battleground states.

The Reno visit caps a two-day trip otherwise devoted to fundraising, including a gala event at the Los Angeles home of actor George Clooney on Thursday night that raised nearly $15 million.

Obama acknowledged the challenges that a slow recovery means for his re-election in his remarks at Clooney’s sprawling canyon home.

“Part of the reason it’s going to be harder,” he said, “is because folks are still hurting out there.”

In Reno, Obama will play up earlier efforts to make it easier for homeowners to refinance their mortgages, an effort that the White House says has increased refinancing applications by nationwide by 50 percent, and by 237 percent in Nevada.

Obama will visit a working couple selected because they benefited from the eased rules.

Nevada’s unemployment rate was 12 percent in March, worst in the nation. As of last month, Nevada’s foreclosure rate trailed only Arizona among states. And the Nevadans most affected by the state’s poor economy are the very voters who rallied behind Obama four years ago.

The question with those voters is less whether they will vote against Obama, but whether they will be as energized to head for the polls and vote in the first place.

“Whether or not he wins it again will depend on how enthusiastically labor works for him there, because they are such a critical part of getting out Hispanic vote, and the Hispanic turnout,” said Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster. “The critical thing is enthusiasm.”

Obama can also benefit from the political organization Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has built in the state, one that helped Reid fend off a tough challenge two years ago from tea party-backed Republican Sharon Angle.

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