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What Americans want from the next president

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But even the most partisan and opinionated among them feel Americans need more compromise: They believe almost universally that the dueling-pistol culture of Washington is hurting the nation at a time when there is enough hardship already.

Out here, in the diners and used-car lots of America, politics runs subordinate to pragmatism.

I found the stories of these Americans often screaming in silence to be heard.

Washington, are you listening?

What jobs happened in Vegas haven't stayed in Vegas

I start my journey in Las Vegas, a unique amalgam of sin and sand, a place historian Kevin Starr has called "boisterous, demotic, a figment of its own imagination, the Elvis Presley of American cities."

I find Mr. Castrogiovanni sitting on a worn office chair at his auto repair shop off Decatur Avenue, its fabric seat stained with grease, cars hovering above him on hydraulic lifts.

"When can I fit you in?" Castrogiovanni is saying into a cordless phone while texting on a cellphone in his other hand. "At this point, I really don't know what to tell you. Don't call me. I'll call you."

Castrogiovanni's bays are full, which is good since Nevada's economy still languishes from the Great Recession. The unemployment rate stands at 11.8 percent – four points above the national average. Not long ago, Castrogiovanni's wife visited the county health department, where officials were handing out loaves of bread to Vegas's destitute.

The feeling of malaise is particularly acute here because of how far and fast the state has fallen. Just a few years ago, Las Vegas was one of the nation's most rapidly growing cities – a Shangri-La of sun and slot machines. Today, it is a stucco expanse of foreclosed homes and forgotten dreams.

Castrogiovanni arrived 20 years go when there was chatter about Las Vegas becoming the first postmodern city of the 21st century – one dependent on tourism, entertainment, services, and anything entrepreneurs could dream up. So he, like most people across the state, remains anxious, even though the phone in his besmudged office never seems silent.

"I believe the economy is working for the very rich," he says. "They don't have any problems. The middle class, here in Vegas, it's very wasted. People don't have money. They're losing their homes left and right. You can't have a strong nation without a strong middle class."

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