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Obama Family: Crucial Symbol in Dem Convention

There were two emotional centerpieces in the first night of the Democratic National Convention.

And another big one comes tonight -- with big consequences for the success of the DNC gathering in Denver.

The most dramatic moment Monday night came with the rousing speech by Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who traveled here despite suffering from brain cancer.

That galvanized delegates, for whom the Kennedy name still represents the gold standard in Democratic politics. And it helped Barack Obama, by shifting attention away from the backstage drama between his allies and those of Hillary Clinton, and toward the party's enduring ideals.

But perhaps more important for Obama was the speech by his wife Michelle. Her task was make to swing voters -- especially whites with some reservations about supporting the first African-American nominee -- more comfortable with the idea that Obama understands their lives and shares their values.

She did it by invoking the special moments that so many families can relate to: the birth of a child, the illness of a parent, the whispered nighttime conversations between siblings, the excitement of Christmas morning.

Obama himself, appearing live on video with a white family from Missouri, punctuated the point by exchanging "I love you's" with his young daughters, after they joined their mother on stage.

By praising Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama also took a first step in the campaign's attempt to unite the party more fully. Tonight, the attention shifts to Hillary Clinton and how effectively her prime-time speech calls on supporters to rally around Obama -- and surrender their lingering sense of grievance over her primary defeat.

Questions? Comments? Write to politicalcapital@cnbc.com.