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Nevada’s Struggling Economy Could Hold a Key to 2024

Nevada has the worst unemployment rate in the country, gas and grocery prices are still among the nation’s highest, and the cost of housing here has soared. President Biden’s policies are squarely to blame, Republicans argue, and former President Donald J. Trump will fix it if voters return him to the White House.

Nevada’s unemployment rate has been cut in half since Mr. Biden took office, gas prices have dropped by nearly $2 a gallon since mid-2022, and more than 200,000 jobs have already been created as the state is receiving $3.3 billion in infrastructure investments. Democrats here say that the economy is finally on the upswing after Mr. Trump and the coronavirus pandemic drove it into the ground, and that re-electing Mr. Biden is critical to keeping it that way.

Which of these disparate economic pictures resonates most strongly with voters could make a difference come November in the critical battleground state. Even though Nevada’s presidential nominating contests this week are largely anti-climactic — in part because Mr. Trump and his remaining Republican primary rival, Nikki Haley, are on separate ballots — Mr. Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Mr. Trump all recently made stops in Las Vegas, setting the stakes for the likely general election matchup.

The messaging war heating up mirrors a larger political fight playing out nationwide over which perception of the economy — the optimistic one pushed by Democrats or the dreary one described by Republicans — hits home for voters. Traditional metrics indicate that the economy is, indeed, strong, and Americans are spending like it is, according to a New York Times analysis, but consumer confidence remains low.

Republicans believe they have a particularly potent economic argument to make in Nevada, which relies heavily on tourism and hospitality, and was hit harder during the pandemic than most of the country and recovered more sluggishly.

“Certainly, Republicans will make hay about that: the cost of living, groceries, some of those issues,” said David Damore, a professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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