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Behind the scenes, Pelosi has her work cut out

DENVER — The first woman to lead the U.S. House of Representatives has a new book out — "Know Your Power: A Message to America's Daughters."

On Monday, at a critical chapter for the Democratic Party, Nancy Pelosi faced a test of her own power to reconcile tensions from a hotly contested presidential primary and convince disaffected backers of Hillary Clinton to support Barack Obama.

It was a daylong effort at the Democratic National Convention Monday for the House Speaker from San Francisco, culminating with her welcoming speech at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

She applauded "the culmination of an historic race." She saluted Clinton by proclaiming that "our party and our country has been strengthened by her candidacy." She called for the party to rally behind its nominee because "Barack Obama's dream is the American dream."

But inside her party, there is work to do.

Though a political hero for Democratic women, Pelosi still faces the ire of some Clinton supporters who believe her primary season criticism of party "superdelegates" undercut the candidate seeking to become the first woman in the White House.

Early Monday, she began a four-day effort "to complete the reconciliation we need" by making an appeal to the 441 delegates of California — the largest state won by Clinton — "to come together in unity" behind Obama.

"Remember this is not just about us and what we're feeling about the campaigns," she said at the California delegation breakfast. "It's about the hopes and aspirations of the American peopleWe owe them more than to get consumed in the process."

With three days to go before Obama's Thursday night acceptance speech, significant percentages of Clinton supporters — particularly women — remain frustrated over her failure to win the nomination and upset over perceived sexism undermining her candidacy.

Wealthy Clinton fundraisers — including Esprit co-founder Susie Tompkins Buell, Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson and media mogul Haim Saban — complained bitterly when Pelosi declared in March that the winner of "pledged delegates" determined by state primaries and caucuses should get the party nod.

At the time, Clinton trailed in the primary race and badly needed votes of superdelegates — a select group of elected officials and Democratic National Committee members — to win the nomination.

Meeting reporters Monday, Pelosi, a superdelegate herself, said she stood true to her principles in urging that the role of superdelegates be diminished.

"We can't have an election for months and months and months and then say, 'Well we'll decide it in Washington D.C.' " with the superdelegate vote, Pelosi said. "That was my position. It's been my position for 25 years."

But California Clinton delegate Gloria Allred said Monday "there remains trouble in the river from the Hillary people" over the manner in which she lost to Obama.

"The sense of some of the Hillary delegates is there was a stampede of superdelegates" to Obama well before the June 3 end of the primary season, she said. Allred said Pelosi "was certainly one of the voices" who pressured superdelegates to act prematurely.

Despite hard feelings, Clinton delegate Steve Maviglio said many other Clinton supporters arrived in Denver with the attitude of "We lost. Get over it. Move on. Keep your eyes on the prize." He said few take issue with Pelosi.

"She is still a rock star in everybody's eyes," he said.

Pelosi noted that Clinton still enjoys a sizeable over advantage among women voters. She predicted many more will reconcile behind Obama as the nominee.

Rattling off issues from health care for children to pay equity in the work place, she said, "I think women have the most to gain by the election of Barack Obama and the most to lose with the election of John McCain."

Pelosi, who will be joined by political strategist Donna Brazile in Denver in a promotional event for her book, told reporters she strongly supports Obama’s selection of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate.

But she became impatient when peppered with questions over superdelegates, polls and perceived party rifts.

"You know what this is like?" she exclaimed. "A yesterday room. What did we all step into? A time capsule?To stay wallowing in all of this is not productive."

So on Monday night, she said her party will get over itself.

"Democrats will leave this convention," she declared, "unified, organized and stronger than ever."

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