Two Utahns now helping to run President Clinton's national campaign - Donald Dunn and Mickey Ibarra - say the president personally wants to win in Utah and will put some extra effort into it.
"He knows that's the only state where he finished third (in 1992), and he wants it," said Dunn, 25, a Salt Lake native who has worked in the White House for three years and is now switch-ing over to help run press operations for the campaign.Ibarra, who helped run the Democratic National Convention and is a senior adviser to the Clinton campaign, said Clinton wants to improve his showing in Utah so much that his campaign is sending a full-time staffer to Utah to coordinate efforts there.
No one seems to remember the last time that the Democratic presidential campaign did that.
Dunn said the president showed he personally thinks winning Utah is possible in a conversation he had with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros - former mayor of San Antonio - who was about to leave to watch the San Antonio Spurs play the Utah Jazz in the playoffs.
"Cisneros said, `I think it might be more beneficial for us politically if San Antonio wins.' But the president said, `You know, our numbers are rising in Utah . . . ,' and he just spouted off all the poll numbers from Utah," which showed his job satisfaction ratings improving, Dunn said.
"And then the president said, `You know we've got some good Democrats out there. The mayor out there had a tough race her first election, but in the second she was able to hold on,' and he just kept spouting off the numbers. Winning Utah would be a big upset, but he thinks it's possible," Dunn said.
Dunn suggested carrying Utah is sort of the ultimate challenge and dream for Democrats who, even in the White House, tend to ask him, "How many Democrats are there in Utah? And I say, `About seven.' "
Dunn started working in the White House in its public liaison office as an intern from the University of Utah, then was hired full-time. Later, he worked in its political office.
Most recently, he worked for the Democratic convention as director of operations for presidential VIPs. "I made sure all of the president's friends - people he's known for 30 years - were taken care of," he said.
He now will coordinate press relations in 14 northeastern states. "I will be passing messages back and forth from the media to the campaign and try to keep everyone on message."
Ibarra, a former teacher at Hillcrest High School and a Utah native, is on leave from his regular job in Washington, D.C., as campaign and elections manager for the National Education Association.
He ran a trouble-shooting operation during the Democratic convention, where he had a staff of 75 to resolve any unforeseen problems.
"The most interesting was when a delegate from North Carolina called and said she tore her dress in such a way that she was afraid that if she stood up she would expose herself. So one of my troubleshooters was there - with a blanket," he said.
His new job now as an adviser for special projects to the Clinton campaign will also have him doing some trouble-shooting. One special project, for example, is to try to persuade campaign managers for past Democratic nominees to take leaves from their jobs and help this year.
Since Ibarra and Dunn both know Clinton and Utah, they both say his message should play well there.
"Our message is that of opportunity, responsibility, community and the future of our country," Ibarra said. "With my personal experience, that should play well with Utahns - and we have a chance to make an impact. Maybe we won't win, but we'll have an impact."
For example, Ibarra, who is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but says he often finds himself defending its members from misperceptions by others, says the message should attract them because "they really do have a sense of charity and Christian values and building community."
To help get the message out, the campaign is sending Nelson Reyneri to help coordinate its efforts with other Democrats. Hesaid, "I'm aiming for a win, not just doing well. We just want Utahs to take an honest look at the president's record, and then we'll do well."
Ibarra said several surrogates for Clinton will also visit the state, although it is too early to tell whether Clinton himself will come. Clinton declined a speaking invitation by the American Legion, whose national convention meets next week in the Salt Palace. Clinton will be on his post-convention bus tour with Vice President Al Gore. Bob Dole will speak to Legionnaires Tuesday.
With the extra efforts, Ibarra warned Reyneri, "Nelson, we just better not finish third."