Howard Dean, the onetime governor of Vermont, presidential candidate and leader of the Democratic National Committee, is confident in his party's prospects.
Even in Republican-heavy Utah.
Dean visited Park City recently in an effort to energize Democrats for the 2014 election cycle, when partisan campaigns for Congress, the Legislature and the County Courthouse will unfold. The state Democratic Party wants to register 40,000 new voters by February, and Dean was in Utah to add star power to the launch of the registration drive.
Appearing at a private residence in Park Meadows, Dean spoke for nearly 30 minutes to a cheering, whistling crowd that included Park City-area political figures and others. The two candidates for the mayor's office in Park City this year -- Park City Councilman Andy Beerman and Planning Commissioner Jack Thomas -- were in the crowd of approximately 80 people. The Democrats used the Dean appearance as a fundraiser. The organizers did not have a dollar figure targeted for the event.
Dean said Utah Democrats suffered in two consecutive election cycles -- 2010 and 2012. Three years ago, he said, Democrats had difficulties across the nation. In 2012, meanwhile, Utah Democrats down the ticket suffered as the state rallied around Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
"Romney's not on the ballot anymore," Dean said as he told the crowd Utah Democrats are not in as bad shape as it may seem to some.
He added that Park City is the most Democratic place in the state.
Dean spoke about young people being drawn to President Obama, the president's campaigns understanding the importance of technology and that Utah Democrats are modeling their strategies on Obama's successful White House campaigns.
"What they saw in Barack Obama is them," Dean said about young voters.
Dean said there is not a downside in Democrats partnering with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on topics where there is agreement and drew applause when he said politicians should not be in charge of redrawing political districts.
State Democratic Party officials barred The Park Record from being in the room during a question-and-answer session.
In an interview during the event, Dean said Democrats would like to win up to six additional seats in the Legislature as well as municipal positions. He said the party holds a disproportionately low number of seats in the Statehouse.
"We certainly are going to have some vigorous races at the congressional level, but I think the focus of the plan that is being executed here is the state Legislature," he said.
He spoke briefly about next year's campaign in the 1st Congressional District, when the Democrats will attempt to pull off what would be a political shocker in unseating the Republican incumbent, Congressman Rob Bishop.
Dean referred to Donna McAleer, a Snyderville Basin Democrat who lost to Bishop in 2012, but he did not identify her by name.
"We have a terrific, at least one terrific, candidate that ran last time. And it was an overwhelming Republican year last time, as I just talked about in there . . . I've been told that we have at least one really good candidate, and there may be more," Dean said.
Dean also talked about the economy during the interview, saying that the Utah economy is outperforming some other places. The national economy is "clearly getting better" and is leading the countries of the West.
"I think that's mostly due to two reasons. One is Ben Bernanke and the QE easing and the other is the decentralized nature of the American economy where 20 million businesspeople a day are making decisions, and that's what's driving the economy," he said, using the term 'QE' when talking about quantitative easing.
Dean, meanwhile, said he is concerned about the divide between America's wealthy and the rest of the nation. He said people could become demoralized and give up on the American dream. That would change the nation, he said.
"The biggest problem with our economy is not recovery. We are recovering, and we're gonna continue to recover," Dean said. "The biggest problem is the gap between the people at the top and the people at the bottom."