DENVER — Women have the most to gain by electing Barack Obama president and Joe Biden vice president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday at the opening press conference of the Democratic National Convention.

Pelosi, a Democrat from San Francisco, and the other three co-chairwomen of the convention — Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and Texas state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte — spoke much about how Denver was picked for the national convention city because Democrats are making great strides in the West.

And Western women are a big part of that, they said.

However, Utah women must be behind the political curve, because Republicans still rule in the Beehive State.

In fact, in various presentations being made at this convention — which starts officially at 3 p.m. today — by the Western Majority Project, Utah isn't listed among the Western states with a Democrat resurgence.

One of the leaders of that project, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, told the Deseret News that other Western states have made greater strides in electing Democrats than Utah.

"But more and more people in the West are not looking at party titles, but at individuals," she said. She said that she has not tried to run away from the national Democratic Party — seen as more liberal than many Westerners — "But I go my own way, and I don't agree with the party 100 percent of the time." That's a statement that could be made by many Utah Democratic candidates.

Asked if she has tried to moderate the Arizona Democratic Party platform to make it easier for Democrats to get elected in her state, the governor said: "I'm not involved in the state platform. I'm busy running the state."

Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said, "Utah is where we (Colorado Democrats) were 10 years ago. In 1998, I was the only Democrat elected statewide. Today, that has changed in a very comprehensive way," with Democrats controlling the governorship, Legislature, U.S. Senate seats and other key offices.

He said if Colorado Democrats can make such strides, so can Utah Democrats by electing pragmatic problem solvers. Salazar said national Democratic leaders looking at rebuilding in the West, including himself, "will

never forget Utah" — and said it shares the same concerns as others in the West on issues from water to energy.

Still, while hundreds of national Democrats are in town this week, you won't find Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah. Matheson has not attended a national Democratic Party convention since he was elected in 2000. And he's staying home in Salt Lake City this year as well, saying he wants to campaign and take his son to his first day of fourth grade this week.

And just what the national Democratic Party really thinks of GOP-dominated Utah may be seen in how few tickets the state party got for Obama's massive acceptance speech in INVESCO Field at Mile High Thursday night. While the Western states were promised a lot of tickets, the Utah party only got around 50, leaving state chairman Wayne Holland scrounging around for a few more just to satisfy loyal leading Utah Democrats who wanted to attend.

Pelosi said the issues critical in this year's presidential campaign are also the top issues for American women — national security and safety for families, education, health care and other top matters that Republicans have failed at.

"Women have the most to gain with Sen. Obama and the most to lose with Sen. McCain," she said.

John McCain, an Arizona Republican, will pick his vice presidential candidate just before the GOP national convention in St. Paul. One leading contender is Mitt Romney — much beloved by Utahns for his work as the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympics boss.

Romney will be in Denver Tuesday to speak at an anti-Democratic Convention event.

There is a new national GOP TV add out this weekend criticizing Obama for picking Biden, a longtime Democratic senator from Delaware, as his vice presidential running mate, saying that Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., was overlooked and shunned by Obama.

Asked about that, and whether not picking Clinton could harm Obama with women voters, Pelosi said no.

"The Republicans will try say this is women against men," or blacks against Latinos, or set religions against each other. "That is their playbook" of dividing Americans.

"But we will unify this country and this party," she said.

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