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Dems invade GOP-heavy Utah, laud Obama victory

Published December 2, 2012 11:45 pm

Politics • Party's national committee says visit is part of 50-state strategy.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Park City • Utah gave President Barack Obama only 24.8 percent of the vote in November, will send a lone Democrat to Congress in January and has a statehouse where Republicans will enjoy a 81.7 percent majority when the Legislature convenes next year.

So, of course, the Democratic National Executive Committee held its final meeting of 2012 in the state Saturday.

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the location was simply a reflection of the party's 50-state strategy launched in 2005 — and a chance to celebrate the close victory by U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, who defeated GOP challenger Mia Love by 768 votes in the heavily contested 4th Congressional District.

Wasserman Schultz said she was "thrilled" by Matheson's win.

"That was a marquee race for the Republicans as well as the tea party, and we were successful because we had an incredible effort nationwide with our 50-state strategy, state party partnerships and making sure we have resources in every state and that we leave no stone unturned," she said.

"We will continue to make sure we cover every corner of this country, and we're here in Utah and thrilled to be here and want to continue to press forward and make sure there is nowhere a Democratic candidate can't be confident they'll have an opportunity to serve Americans," she said.

The executive committee arrived at the posh Montage Deer Creek Resort on Thursday, but only an hour of the weekend-long event was open to the public Saturday afternoon.

During that hour, Wasserman Schultz and 34 members of the committee spent the bulk of the time congratulating each other on Obama's victory and the party's success in broadening its outreach to Latinos and other minority groups.

Latinos in particular played a dramatic role in Obama's victory, with exit poll data showing the Hispanic vote went to the president over Romney by a margin of 72 percent to 23 percent.

Iris Martinez, an executive committee member from Florida, said highlighting Latinos during the party convention in Charlotte, N.C., energized them to mobilize get-out-the-vote efforts in key swing states.

"It gave them the energy to do the work," Martinez said. "We gave a lot, and we're going to continue to give a lot."

Wasserman Schultz, in prepared remarks, also asked members to combat a Republican narrative — that Obama's victory over GOP nominee Mitt Romney was a narrow one.

She noted Obama won the popular vote by more than 5 million votes and rattled off election results statistics in key swing states that pleased the committee. In Colorado, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, he won by more than 5 points and, in some cases, by 6 percentage points. He won Nevada by almost 7 percentage points. Obama won the election with 332 electoral votes to Romney's 206.

"Guess what? It wasn't close," she said. "President Obama laid out a clear vision, and voters had a clear choice and they chose decisively."

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who worked as a key national spokesman for Romney, said voters chose "the status quo" in November by keeping Obama but also keeping the House under GOP control.

"When President Obama first won, Democrats controlled the house, the Senate and the presidency," he said. "Two years later, the country had a major change and put Republicans in control of the House, and we still control the House by a wide margin."

But he said despite holding a viewpoint that differs from that of Wasserman Schultz, he welcomed the Democrats to Utah.

"I hope they come back," he said. "It's good for the state. We want to have as many people who want to come up to our mountains and enjoy our state."

dmontero@sltrib.com

Twitter: @davemontero