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DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION

Pelosi's star power gets party going

August 25, 2008|Robin Abcarian and Don Frederick | Times Staff Writers

DENVER — It may be Barack Obama's week, but the show's early star as Democrats gathered here over the weekend was San Francisco's own Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker currently moonlighting as co-chair of her party's national convention.

Pelosi, whose regular job makes her the highest-ranking woman in U.S. political history, technically shares the co-chair designation with three other female elected officials: Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of Texas.

But Pelosi clearly is the first among equals.

She'll be the convention's presiding officer for its evening sessions -- and will take her turn at the podium tonight.

With neither presidential-nominee-to-be Obama or the Illinois senator's chosen running mate, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, yet in town, she has been the one scurrying about Denver to headline news conferences and press the party's message.

On Sunday, she was asked whether the latest television ad by presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, which features critical comments Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York directed at Obama during their primary battle, was a "below the belt" attack.

She smiled, hesitated and replied, "It just shows the bankruptcy of their campaign. They have no relevant ideas."

At a Saturday luncheon with reporters, she offered a scathing assessment of George W. Bush's tenure in the White House. (Pelosi was briefly evacuated from her hotel Saturday when a man carrying two hunting rifles and two pistols in a gun case tried to check into the Grand Hyatt in downtown Denver. Police arrested him, and her spokesman said she was never in danger.)

Four years ago, at the Democratic conclave that nominated Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts for the White House, a damper was put on hard-edged rhetoric. The plan was to accentuate the positive about Kerry -- especially his military service in Vietnam.

Pelosi made clear she was among the many Democrats who disapproved. She dryly said it would have been better if the 2004 convention had been more "about the Iraq war, not the Vietnam War."

Throughout the weekend, Pelosi predictably touted Obama's chances of triumphing.

And Pelosi sees herself in a more entrenched position, post-November. "We will have a stronger and bigger Democratic majority," she predicted.

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robin.abcarian@latimes.com

don.frederick@latimes.com

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