RENO, Nev. — Refocusing on the economy, President Barack Obama on Friday pushed Republicans to back housing policies the White House says would help shore up struggling homeowners and prevent foreclosures.

Against the backdrop of a middle-class neighborhood in economically hard-hit Nevada, Obama touted steps his administration has already taken to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. But the president said he needed help from lawmakers in order to expand the refinancing efforts.

"There are things that we can do right now to help create jobs, to help restore some of the financial security that so many families have lost," Obama said. "But I have to say that there are a few too many Republicans in Congress who don't seem to be as optimistic as we are."

With Nevada voters up for grabs in the November election, Obama also drew a contrast with Republican Mitt Romney's plan for the nation's struggling housing market. While never mentioning Romney by name, the president criticized his rival and others in GOP for saying the government should allow the housing market to "hit bottom and hope for the best."

Seeking to put a real face on the nation's housing woes, Obama met earlier Friday with Reno homeowners Paul and Val Keller. Obama said the couple had benefited from executive action he took that made it easier to refinance a mortgage and is now saving $240 a month.

"That's real money," Obama said during a kitchen table chat at the Keller home.

Administration officials said refinancing applications have increased nationwide by 50 percent since Obama made it easier to refinance. In Nevada, which ranks second in the nation in foreclosed homes, officials said refinancing applications were up by about 230 percent.

But Obama said his administration is limited in the action it can take on its own.

Earlier this year, he proposed legislation that would lower lending rates for millions of borrowers who have not been able to get out from under burdensome mortgages. Obama would pay for the estimated $5 billion to $10 billion cost with a fee on large banks. The plan faces an uphill fight in Congress. The White House says it would not insist on the bank fees as a means to finance the plan.

Obama's shift back to the economy ended a week dominated by his public embrace of gay marriage. He followed up his historic, yet politically risky, announcement with a day of West Coast fundraising, including a gala event at the Los Angeles home of actor George Clooney on Thursday night that raised nearly $15 million.

Obama won Nevada in his 2008 presidential election. But the economy presents new challenges as well as an opportunity for rival Romney.

Four years ago, Nevada was reeling from the recession, and Obama and union allies seized on the anxiety to mobilize voters and win the state. Today, the Nevada is still in dire straits and the economy belongs to the president.

Nevada's unemployment rate was 12 percent in March, the worst in the nation. As of last month, Nevada's foreclosure rate trailed only Arizona among states. And the Nevadans most affected by the state's poor economy are the very voters who rallied behind Obama four years ago.

Below, pictures of the First Family with celebrities:
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  • George Clooney & President Obama

    Actor George Clooney leaves after he spoke to the media March 15, 2012 at the White House in Washington, DC. Clooney had meeting with President Barack Obama to discuss the current situations in Darfur, Sudan. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

  • President Obama & Tyler Perry

    Actor and director Tyler Perry hugs US President Barack Obama during a campaign event at Tyler Perry Studios March 16, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. President Obama is spending the day traveling to Chicago, Illinois and Atlanta, Georgia to attend private and public campaign events. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • The Obamas & Oprah Winfrey

    US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama chat with talk show host Oprah Winfrey during a taping of the Oprah Winfrey show April 27, 2011 at Harpo Studios in Chicago. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • President Obama & Magic Johnson

    In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, President Barack Obama is greeted on the court by NBA Hall of Fame basketball player Earvin 'Magic' Johnson and Michigan State University assistant coach Mike Garland. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

  • Willow Smith Performs At The White House

    Willow Smith, daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smitt, performs during the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House on April 25, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg-Pool/Getty Images)

  • Antonio Banderas & President Obama

    Antonio Banderas and his wife Melanie Griffith hosted a fundraising event for President Obama in October 2011. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • Tom Hanks Narrates Pro-Obama Film

    This 17-minute film released by President Obama's re-election campaign was directed by Davis Guggenheim (director of "An Inconvenient Truth") and narrated by actor Tom Hanks.

  • Gov. Mitt Romney & Jeff Foxworthy

    Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney makes a campaign appearance with comedian Jeff Foxworthy at the Whistle Stop cafe March 12, 2012 in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • Gov. Mitt Romney & Kid Rock

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets musician Kid Rock during a campaign rally at the Royal Oak Theatre on February 27, 2012 in Royal Oak, Michigan. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • David Mustaine & Rick Santorum

    David Mustaine of Megadeth expressed support for Rick Santorum in a February <a href="http://www.musicradar.com/news/live/interview-megadeths-dave-mustaine-talks-guitar-politics-and-todays-music-529703" target="_hplink">interview with Music Radar</a>.

  • Kelly Clarkson & Ron Paul

    Kelly Clarkson tweeted about her love for Ron Paul in late 2011, but dialed it back slightly after a backlash accused her of supporting Paul's racist and homophobic publications, <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/03/09/kelly-clarkson-never-endorsed-ron-paul/" target="_hplink">reports Fox News</a>. (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Snoop Dogg & Ron Paul

    In December 2011, Snoop Dogg posted a picture of Ron Paul on his Facebook page with the caption "Smoke Weed Every Day," <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/31/us-snoopdogg-ronpaul-idUSTRE80U04220120131" target="_hplink">reports Reuters</a>. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Keep Memory Alive)

  • Oliver Stone & Ron Paul

    In January, Oliver Stone told <a href="http://www.rockcellarmagazine.com/2012/01/12/director-oliver-stone-on-history-and-america-jim-morrison-ron-paul/" target="_hplink">Rock Cellar Magazine</a> that he would vote for Ron Paul over Barack Obama if Paul was named the GOP nominee because "he's the only one of anybody who's saying anything intelligent about the future of the world." (Photo by Stephen Morton/Getty Images)