Here's what people in the Reno-Sparks area were saying last week about life these days in Nevada, one of the nation's most fiercely fought presidential election battlegrounds.
At the ballgame
It's a lively late-summer night at Aces Ballpark, where the Triple-A Reno Aces are playing the second game of their Pacific Coast League Championship Series against the Omaha Storm Chasers.
The national pastime rules here tonight -- but so does politics.
"I can't answer my phone anymore," said Judy Bemdure, 53, of Carson City. "The first couple of times they're just doing surveys ... but it's annoying now."
With her husband, Fred, 59, sitting next to her and keeping an eye on the game, Bemdure, a state government retiree who now teaches Pilates, jokingly says her household has one person registered with the right party and one with the wrong one, but both plan to re-register independent soon. And, she said, both probably will vote for Obama. "I think people were unrealistic thinking he was going to solve all the world's problems in one term," she said, especially if Congress "is going to go against him just to prove him wrong."
"Frankly, both parties are wrong," said Fred Bemdure. "I don't care about parties. I think we need more independent people to put the best people in Congress."
Sitting with the Bemdures is Fred's lifelong friend, Aaron Ging, 60, of Reno. He doesn't plan to vote at
"Voting for a presidential candidate to affect policy is like buying a lottery ticket to affect your financial future," Ging said.
At the mayor's office
Bob Cashell came from his native Texas to Reno in 1964 as a truck driver. Three years later, he bought a truck stop west of town and renamed it the Boomtown Hotel and Casino. By the time he sold it 21 (blackjack!) years later, he had business interests all over Nevada and had just finished a term as lieutenant governor. A Republican, he's now in his third and final term as Reno's mayor.
He took abuse from his own party for backing U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for re-election in 2010.
He said Reid is a longtime friend and that GOP nominee Sharron Angle was the wrong person to take him on and that he had to do what was right for his city. And he's aware that he's now called a RINO, or "Republican In Name Only."
But he's a solid Romney man this year.
Cashell's city has hit economic bottom. The downturn eviscerated the gaming and tourism industry, and things are just now starting to turn around: Walmart and other retailers have opened massive distribution centers in recent years in the next county over, and Apple just last month got a green light from the state to put a massive data center nearby. In addition, Cashell said, the devastated housing market is showing some early signs of recovery.
Still, "the overall economy just scares everybody to death," he said. "People with disposable income just aren't disposing of it right now ... so you've got to get them comfortable so they'll relax and go back to living the way they used to."
Romney can make that happen, he said.
"I've always admired his business skills. I really admired what he did with the Olympics," Cashell said. "I think he will come up with creative ways to help businesses expand and help them get out of the troubles they're in."
Cashell said he knows Obama has been hamstrung by an uncooperative Republicans in Congress, and he doesn't condone obstructionism on either side of the aisle. But he believes Romney will be better at building consensus. "Since when did compromise become a dirty word?" he said. "Mitt Romney has a way to bring those people around."
At the burger joint
Sparks, a city of more than 90,000, abuts Reno's east side. Mike Richards, 69, has been slinging burgers at his Scoopers Drive-In there for 32 years. And now his sons and grandson work there, too. A Democrat, Richards said he'll probably vote for Obama, but he's not too fired up about it.
"For business owners, there's not much of a race," he said. "It's not that I'm a whipped dog, but I'm not going to believe much of what I hear anymore."
Women's issues helped decide this election in his household, he said. "My wife, there's no way in hell she'd vote for Romney," he said. "She says every woman in America should vote for Obama."
And even on the economic front, he said, "at least there's a little bit of hope with Obama; he's in there working hard."
He said his business actually is better off now than it was four years ago, but not because of any politician. Rather, he cut expenses to the bone and did his best to barrel through the downturn and ever-present overregulation.
At the wedding chapel
Beverly Van Dusseldorp, 72, sits behind the counter of her Antique Angel Wedding Chapel waiting to make customers' dreams come true. But if Obama were to walk through her door, she said, "I'd punch him out," as she would Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"If they had a brain between them, they'd sit on the floor and play with it," she said.
"All he and his family have used the presidency for is free vacations and a round of golf," she said, as Preacher, her schnauzer, curled at her feet.
A journeyman upholsterer, Von Dusseldorp and her late husband opened the chapel more than 10 years ago, and she has never seen times as tough as now. With no disposable income, people can't even afford to come to Reno to wed. And when they do, it's often a bare-bones affair with just a bride and groom and few or no guests.
"The thing that bothers me the most is the lack of jobs; that is the whole crux of the whole thing," she said. "And the foreign policy -- I wouldn't bow to any other country at all, I would never apologize for America."
If Obama gets re-elected, she predicted, "he'll take the rest of the country down with him."
At the Romney campaign headquarters
Washoe County's Romney campaign headquarters is in a strip mall in the shadow of the Atlantis Hotel and Casino, several miles south of the main downtown district. On one recent evening, volunteers were being wooed with ice cream and asked to work the phones.
John George Nelson, 72, of Reno, said this is the first campaign he has ever gotten involved in. "I feel so strongly about my freedoms and fighting socialism and giving money away to these countries that ... turn their backs on you," he said.
Steve Bezick, 20, of Fairfax, Va., is also a junior at the University of Nevada, Reno, studying economics. He's a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and he's senior vice president of his campus' College Republicans chapter.
To sway voters his age, he said, he just tells them "the facts about Social Security and Medicare" -- namely, that all the money young people are paying into the system will never "come back to us."
At the Latino vote mobilization
Just a few storefronts down from the Romney headquarters is an office of Americans for Prosperity. That's where Edward Vento works as the northern Nevada field director for the Libre Initiative, a nonpartisan campaign to woo Latinos to conservatism.
Vento said Latino voters identify strongly with "economic prosperity and less government regulation," yet have been turned off by the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric common in today's GOP. Still, he said, jobs are the top concern.
"That's been a big talking point with them," he said. "A lot of people have gone back to their countries because there aren't any jobs here."
Among those who remain, "we've had great participation from people who've never been involved in politics," he said. "It's been going surprisingly well; we thought it would be a tougher fight."
At the Obama campaign headquarters
While the Romney volunteers ate ice cream, Obama volunteers about a mile and a half away brought food for a potluck social at their local headquarters. On the wall was a mural-sized version of the oft-touted graph showing job losses and gains since 2008 -- the bars turning from red to blue, just as these volunteers hope to turn Washoe County.
Marilyn King, 75, said being a retired social worker who earlier in life worked as a secretary, a librarian and a waitress while being a single mother and pursuing her college degree gives her "a much broader perspective."
Obama in 2008 inspired this longtime independent to join the Democratic Party. "I got a sense then and I still do that he really cared about what was happening and really wanted to make a difference," she said.
Nevada residents feel demoralized by the economy, she acknowledged, but "not voting is not any kind of a statement." Besides, she said, Obama deserves credit for the progress he has made in four years.
"I did not expect miracles," she said.