Swing State Snapshot: Nevada is Economic Ground Zero

PHOTO: Left: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally at Somers Furniture on May 29, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Right: In this June 1, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in Chicago

Nevada has the worst economy of any state, let alone battlegrounds.

Its unemployment rate is the highest in the nation. Hit harder by the housing crisis than any other state in the country, Nevada has ranked first nationally in foreclosures per housing unit in every quarter since at least the beginning of 2007.

Further tipping the scales in Mitt Romney's favor were the state's early GOP caucuses, which presumably generated some enthusiasm for Romney as their winner, and the nation's third largest concentration of Mormons.

See all of ABC News battleground states in our Electoral States of America map HERE

And yet polls have shown President Obama with a narrow lead there. Why?

The state's demographics give Obama a structural advantage. In 2008, more than 25 percent of the vote was cast by non-whites, and Obama carried 94 percent of the African-American vote and a whopping 76 percent of the Latino vote. While turnout could drop off from 2008, Obama figures to perform well among these groups again in 2012--and Latinos account for 27 percent of Nevada's population, making it fifth among states in Latino concentration.

In 2010, Democrats narrowly avoided a demoralizing loss in Nevada, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid staved off a competitive challenge from tea partier Sharron Angle.

This year, Rep. Shelley Berkley is challenging Republican Sen. Dean Heller. Democrats thought Nevada to be a strong pickup opportunity in a presidential year, but Berkley has faced a congressional ethics investigation over advocacy for a kidney clinic that benefited her husband, but the race remains close, and polls have showed Heller leading.

CURRENT UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: 11.8 percent in September

TREND SINCE OBAMA TOOK OFFICE: Nevada currently ranks first in state unemployment--with a higher rate than the 9.6 percent it reported when Obama took office--and things have been getting worse. After dipping to 11.6 percent in May and June, the rate climbed to 12 percent in July and now sits at 11.8 percent. Nevada's unemployment peaked at 14 percent in Oct. 2010.

CURRENT FORECLOSURE RATE: One in every 496 housing units in September, according to RealtyTrac

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME

2011: $48,927 2008: $58,833

PARTY REGISTRATION

Democrats: 520,638 Republicans: 434,313 Independents: 216,722 Independent American Party: 57,578 Libertarian: 8,358 Green: 1,181 Other: 6,760

POPULATION

2,723,322 in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's estimate

POPULATION BY RACE

White: 77.7 percent Black: 8.6 percent Asian: 7.7 percent Hispanic: 27.1 percent

See other battleground state profiles here: NORTH CAROLINA, PENNSYLVANIA, VIRGINIA

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