"Democrats have lost the South, so we have to look for another field to mine," said Arizona Democratic chairman Jim Pedersen. "And here is where the opportunity is."
To succeed in the region, Western Democratic activists said, the party must better understand the West's pressing concerns, including land use, water and urban sprawl. They also must frame traditional Democratic issues such as education and health care in language that speaks broadly to Western voters, activists said.
Bill & Hill Push for 'Anybody But Dean'
"The Clintons don't like Dean on substance or style, seeing him as too left and too loose-lipped," reports Newsweek in Monday editions.
The former first couple headlined an inauguration night bash at the D.C. home of former Clinton pollster Mark Penn, where one attendee said, "There was a ton of positive energy at the house - except for the fear and loathing of Dean."
Western State Democrats Interview Dean
Dean, whose fiery anti-war rhetoric captivated millions of activists during his upstart presidential campaign, said he was not concerned that his image as an anti-war, pro-gay rights liberal would alienate voters in conservative states and provide fodder for Republican media campaigns.
"My attitude is that they are going to run those ads anyway, so why not go down and stand up for what you believe in?" Dean said. "How are we going to convince people in Mississippi that their economic interests are the same as ours if we don't show up? It is incredibly insulting to people."
Earlier this week, Dean seemed to be steamrolling to front-runner status in the race, announcing that he had secured the endorsement of several state party chairs and other voting DNC members.
But that move produced a backlash among other state chairs and some activists. For example, several Oklahoma Democrats publicly criticized the decision by state party chair Jay Parmley to endorse Dean.
"Like most Oklahoma Democrats, I do not believe Gov. Dean shares our values or is the right person to lead our party at this time," state Sen. Debbe Lefwich, a DNC voting member, said Thursday.