HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stopped short Friday of assessing Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, saying candidates should be judged on their ideology rather than gender.

Pelosi, a Democrat and the nation’s first female House speaker, said the growing number of women on the ballot and in leadership positions is good for the nation.

Palin, governor of Alaska and GOP presidential nominee John McCain’s running mate, has been criticized by many of Pelosi’s fellow Democrats for her perceived lack of experience in foreign affairs and other topics.

Pelosi steered clear Friday of criticizing Palin, but said that in general terms, having more women in national campaigns is good for the country.

“But let’s be clear: Don’t say, ‘Here’s a woman, elect a woman,”‘ said Pelosi, whose position as House speaker places her second in the line of presidential succession behind Vice President Dick Cheney.

What she wants in a female candidate, she said, goes beyond gender: “It’s not just a woman, but a woman who shares our views.”

Palin is the first Republican woman nominated for vice president. Geraldine Ferraro, a New York congresswoman, was nominated in 1984 on Democrat Walter Mondale’s presidential ticket.

Pelosi reserved most of her comments Friday on the presidential race to praise Democratic candidate Barack Obama and criticize McCain, saying McCain is not qualified to lead the country.

Pelosi made her comments Friday before addressing Connecticut’s inaugural Global Women’s Issues Forum event in Hartford.

She was scheduled on Saturday to stop in Stamford to visit Jim Himes, a Democratic congressional candidate trying to unseat incumbent Republican Christopher Shays.

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