DENVER - The Democratic Party chose Denver over New York yesterday as the site of its 2008 presidential convention, capping months of debate over which city had better logistics, deeper pockets, and a more compelling backdrop to frame the party's message.

"If we're going to have a national party, we're going to have to have Westerners vote for us on a consistent basis," party chairman Howard Dean said in a telephone news conference. "At the end of the day," he said, "that's what tipped it to Denver."

Denver economic development officials said the convention, to be Aug. 25-28, would be the biggest hotel-based gathering in the city's history, with 35,000 people spending hundreds of millions of dollars on food, drink, and places in which to sleep. The convention will mark exactly 100 years since the last national political convention in Denver, in 1908, when the Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan, who lost the election to William Howard Taft.

Western Democrats, led by Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado, Mayor John Hickenlooper of Denver, and Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, maintained through the selection process that the shifting demographics of the West were really Denver's strongest suit in bidding for the convention.

But if Democrats are stronger in the West, they are probably more iconoclastic and diverse than ever, political experts say, which could make the party's Western venture less predictable, if not divisive. Many Western Democrats, including Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, oppose gun control; others, including Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, are personally opposed to abortion.

Five of the eight states in the interior West now have Democratic governors. Democrats picked up about 25 state legislature seats in November's elections as well, gaining ground in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado and Idaho, while suffering a net loss of seats to the Republicans only in Montana.

The U.S. Senate swung to Democratic Party control partly on the shoulders of Tester, who defeated Sen. Conrad Burns in Montana.

"The last few election cycles helped get the attention of the DNC about what was happening," said the state's Democratic Party chairwoman, Pat Waak. "It is a new Democrat that is out there, epitomized by what is happening in the West."

Sen. Dodd Joins White House Race

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd

(D., Conn.), a veteran of more than three decades

in Congress, yesterday joined a growing field of presidential contenders.

In an unconventional move, Dodd announced his candidacy for the White House on the rowdy Imus in the Morning radio show,

then later joined his Senate Foreign Relations Committee colleagues in questioning Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about Iraq. Starting later yesterday, he was traveling to the

early-voting states of Iowa and South Carolina.

Dodd, 62, told host Don Imus he had the knowledge and experience necessary to govern in a dangerous world. Although firmly positioned in his party's liberal wing, Dodd is noted for a willingness to compromise that has made him capable of forging coalitions with members

of both parties.

- Associated Press