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Kay Burley Headshot

The King Is Dead, Long Live the King

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Elvis rocked the Sixties with Viva Las Vegas. Almost half a century later and the two presidential candidates are hoping they can do the same.

Nevada is one of a handful of crucial swing states which will decide whether there's a new man at the White House or the present incumbent stays at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for four more years.

Such then is the importance of The Silver State to both candidates that the president broke off from visiting those worst affected by Superstorm Sandy to make a flying visit to Vegas. Mitt Romney has also spent much of his time in the desert gambling on being able to woo the locals.

Barack Obama is counting on the latino, hispanic and female vote. Mitt Romney is hoping for some divine intervention with the support of fellow mormons who make up 10% of the vote in Nevada. In fact, so deep is their faith, they put aside contempt for drinkers and gamblers and reluctantly attended a celebration party in a Vegas casino when their man won the party nomination here.

It was all so different four years ago. Back in 2008, Obama found it easy to walk voters up the aisle of the little White Chapel where thousands of others tie the knot each year in Vegas. He won the state convincingly with a 12 point margin. But did the president not pay his new companions enough attention? Could he be heading for a messy divorce in 2012?

The Obama campaign is spending a fortune on TV advertising to try to make sure they forget any indiscretions and give him another chance. Vegas residents are bombarded with more political ads than any other viewers in the country. Apparently those watching the local news, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune are particularly vulnerable to the TV appeals.

So what's the message? Well, the challenges of the economy have taken their toll on the USA and Nevada in particular. No longer are the streets paved with gold, certainly not for the residents at least. If the issues this time are jobs and the economy then it should be easy for Mitt Romney to convince the voters here to say "I do."

Nevada has the highest unemployment in the country (11.8%, September 2012) and 60% of mortgages are underwater here, that's almost three times higher than the national average. The city of northern Las Vegas has been described as the Ground Zero of the housing market. Foreclosure racked neighbourhoods sprawl way beyond the strip - and beneath it too.

More than 1,000 people live in dirty, rat-infested underground flood tunnels way beneath Caesar's Palace at The Luxor casino hotels. Disease and highly poisonous spiders are the major concern. Begging and 'dumpster diving' for food is how they survive. Many of those who call this home are former war veterans or those who came to Las Vegas in pursuit of the American dream. Drink, drugs and depression are now their way of life. So, who do the residents of underground Vegas want to win on Tuesday? I'll be finding out as I spend the next few days broadcasting for Sky News from Nevada.

But it's not just Vegas, baby. There are another half a dozen swing states where the election can be won and lost.

My Sky News colleagues have fanned out from Washington to Florida, Ohio to Colorado to find out who the American people want to see victorious on Tuesday.

Using wireless digilinks we'll have correspondents strolling down mainstreet Desmoines and beach side Tampa. We'll be presenting across all the US timezones and have a pop-up newsroom in Chicago.

Coverage starts in quiet reserved Las Vegas with quite reserved me at 0600 Monday morning. Worth remembering that Nevada has backed the winning candidate in every election since 1976.

By early Wednesday morning UK time we should know who'll be King of Vegas and most probably the USA for the next four years.