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Can the Nation's Foreclosure Capital Bounce Back?

Susan Milligan is visiting six Election 2012 battleground states to talk with 50-plus voters for a report that will be published in the September issue of the AARP Bulletin. She posted this from Las Vegas.

So maybe the unemployment rate here is still above 12 percent.

So maybe the housing bubble burst like a nuclear explosion, taking down housing values and leaving legions of homeowners underwater on their mortgages.

So what?

This is Las Vegas, where most people still believe there's a jackpot-in-waiting at the next proverbial slot machine. Or they're at least willing to believe that things are going to get better.

That's not to say that residents of Sin City aren't more than a little irritated at what their elected officials are doing - or, more to the point, aren't doing - to speed things along and do something about health care and energy costs. "Nobody does anything for the people anymore . . . only banks," Amy Watt, 63, tells me as she closes her notebook after a community workshop on foreclosure.

"In my opinion, we need new blood in Congress,'' adds her husband, Jim, who talks about the good old days when he pumped gas at 19 cents a gallon. But the Wattses - even though they both face health problems as well as foreclosure on their Henderson home - say they feel grateful for what they have and are hopeful for the future, however uncertain it may be.

Perhaps it's the quest for adventure and excitement that brought folks out here in the first place, or the gambling spirit that lives inside the hearts of Nevadans (though locals tend not to risk their cash on the Strip). As 56-year-old Fermin Deguzman, who's been driving a cab since he lost his job in engineering technology, puts it, "The economy's not going well, but things are getting better."

The casinos are making decent profits, according to the folks who attended the foreclosure workshop, helping the  Las Vegas economy. And remember: It only takes the right roll of the dice to turn things around. -Susan Milligan

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