Pelosi: Democrats Must Reach The Working Class House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is scheduled to speak on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention. She says the party needs to reach out to blue-collar voters and show critics that Barack Obama will fight for working families.

Pelosi: Democrats Must Reach The Working Class

Pelosi: Democrats Must Reach The Working Class

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly press conference with reporters on June 19, 2008, on Capitol Hill. Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly press conference with reporters on June 19, 2008, on Capitol Hill.

Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

When the Democratic National Convention begins Monday in Denver, the woman wielding the gavel will be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In January 2007, when the Democrats took over the House of Representatives after a dozen years in the minority, the outgoing Republican speaker presented the gavel to Pelosi, and she held it up over her head.

Pelosi loves to show visitors the view from the tall windows of her office in the Capitol, which stretches down the Mall to the Washington Monument. And she plainly enjoys her power.

On the opening night of the convention, she will have a lot of it as she faces thousands of Democrats in Denver's Pepsi Center and, beyond them, millions of people tuning in to find out what the Democrats are about at this convention.

One big challenge facing Pelosi is that almost half the people in the arena are delegates who supported the ultimately unsuccessful presidential campaign of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

There's no chance, Pelosi says, that this convention will swing out of control. The convention will belong to Obama.

"I am very pleased that we're going to have the roll call vote. I think that was very important to do. But I don't think that means those people are against Barack Obama," she says. "There may be some who are still unhappy about the outcome — and that is understandable — but as I say, they are Democrats, and they understand that if we are going to take the country in a new direction, we cannot have four more years of George Bush. And that's what John McCain would be."

And does she share in their disappointment that there is no woman on the ticket?

"I would love to see a woman president, a woman vice president, a woman on the ticket every single time," she says. "But it's no use discussing it. We have a candidate."

Nancy Pelosi — who grew up Nancy D'Alesandro in Baltimore's little Italy — learned politics from her dad, who was Baltimore's mayor. Their neighbors, she says, were the same type of people whom vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden grew up with in Scranton, Pa.

Pelosi thinks that Biden is the right person to deliver the Democrats' message to people who've been dealt out of the game — whom she calls everyday people. She says Obama needs that kind of help, because of the way he has been characterized throughout the campaign.

"The challenge, then, is for people to better understand who he is," she says. "If others will criticize him because he is lofty in his aspirations, we have to make sure that people know that those aspirations are not for himself, but for working families."

Pelosi's first convention was a long time ago: She attended with her parents in 1952, carrying a toy donkey that she named Adlai after that year's nominee, Adlai Stevenson.

Now, she has bigger things on her mind. She says that when the Democrats win larger majorities in the House and Senate, her first priority will be to end the war in Iraq — and then rebuild the economy.