Despite some recent diversification, Nevada's economy is more concentrated than virtually any other state. The tourism/gambling sector accounts for more than one-quarter of Nevada's 1.14 million nonfarm jobs, and 13 of the 20 largest employers are casino/hotel companies.
Thanks to intensive organizing in that industry, Nevada stands out as a rare stronghold for private sector unions. The hotel and casino operators, unlike counterparts in some other sectors, can't threaten to outsource or relocate, giving the unions some extra leverage.
Taylor's union, Culinary Workers Local 226, claims 60,000 members in Las Vegas. They're waitresses, housekeepers, doormen and others at nearly all the main hotels on the Strip and most of the less-glamorous establishments in downtown. At the union hall, in a low-rise industrial area north of the Strip, members said their contracts helped them endure the worst of the recession, although there was no immunity to hard times.
Tammy Wells, 47, a cocktail waitress at the Luxor, said her tip allocation was cut by half at one point, dropping her annual earnings from about $40,000 to below $20,000. Her pay is now on the upswing, but not yet back to its peak, she said.
Local 226 gave Obama one of his first big labor endorsements during the Democratic primary campaign in 2008, and Wells said she is sticking with the president this year.
"It's very important that it's someone in touch with the common person, who knows what it's like to worry about making your house payment, about having health insurance for your child," Wells said. "Romney is not the common man."
Taylor said relatively few of his members are likely to back Romney, but wondered if some might lack the enthusiasm to turn out for Obama.
"Working people, since the 2008 election, don't see the Democrats as really delivering for them," he said. "The Republicans work hard to deliver for their constituency. I wish the Democrats could do the same for theirs."
Ryan Erwin, a Nevada political consultant who's advising the Romney campaign, believes economic conditions favor his candidate.
"People moved to Nevada to chase a dream, so there is an entrepreneurial spirit here," he said. "They see an Obama administration that has promised one thing, delivered something different — not a single policy that's beneficial to Nevada's job creation environment."
Reno restaurant owner Tim Wulf is the kind of entrepreneur that Romney aides have in mind.
As of the 2008 election, Wulf says he operated three Jimmy John's sandwich shops with 94 employees and was planning to expand. He said administration policies, notably Obama's health care overhaul, undermined his confidence, prompting him to sell one of the stores and cut his workforce to about 50 in hopes he wouldn't be forced to provide them with health care.
"We become a defensive business instead of growing and expanding," he said.
A small business owner in the Obama camp is Ron Nelsen, 52, who runs Las Vegas-based Pioneer Overhead Door. He says the recent downturn was the worst he'd experienced in a 34-year career, forcing him to cut his 10-person workforce in half, but he now detects signs of an upswing and is ready to add at least one more worker.
He believes Obama is more committed than Romney to strengthening the middle class.
"Making the rich pay a little more doesn't scare me," Nelsen said. "I'd love to be rich so I could pay a little more."
Then there's Jon Basso, owner and impresario at the Heart Attack Grill on a pedestrian mall in downtown Las Vegas.
"Taste Worth Dying For" is the restaurant's motto. A vintage ambulance is parked by the entrance, the waitresses are clad as nurses, and customers don hospital gowns before consuming the high-calorie burgers, fries and butterfat shakes.
Basso, tending bar in a doctor's coat, said his business weathered the recession well "because of how outlandish we are." He mimed a coin flip when asked about his presidential preference; his favored candidate had been Ron Paul, the Texas congressman outpaced by Romney.