DENVER—She came to the stage last night with confidence and a big grin, waving to the cheering thousands and clearly comfortable with the microphone.
Yes, Sasha Obama, 7, was a show-stopper, and, with her sister, Malia, 10, did as much for their dad's image as the poised, polished, and eloquent speech that their mom had just delivered to the delegates and party faithful who had packed the Pepsi Center.
"Hi, Daddy," Sasha called out in a video back-and-forth with Barack Obama, who watched his wife Michelle's speech with the Girardeau family in Kansas City. "Hi Girardeau family...Daddy, what city are you in?" Sasha continued, holding fast to the microphone while the audience roared, and her mom and the candidate, who was projected on a giant screen behind the podium, smiled.
Those in the crowd and the viewing audience may have recognized something special: perhaps the only unscripted moments they'll witness over this four-day convention.
But gimlet-eyed morning critics have groused that the Obama campaign wasted the convention's opening night with too-much feel-good: an emotional tribute to Sen. Edward Kennedy, who, despite a tough battle with brain cancer, took to the stage to give a rousing call to arms for Obama, and Michelle Obama's paean to her family's values - faith, family, and hard work.
But despite moments when the video homage and testimony by her older brother, Craig, that led into her speech edged dangerously close to treacly, the candidate's 44-year-old wife provided a formidable case for her family as an All-American family. An All-American family that happens to be black, and whose history as related by the Ivy League-educated daughter of a water filtration plant worker and a stay-at-home mom was a reflection of the classic American dream story.
Michelle Obama long ago became a target of conservatives who questioned her "patriotism." This was in part because of comments she made in February about being proud of her country for the first time in her adult life because of the support her husband had received in the primaries, and the hunger for change she said she'd witnessed on the campaign trail.
Last night she made the most of the opportunity to tear down caricatures of who she is and what she and her husband value. And it just so happened that the most vivid testimony to their values was not the gauzy video, the words of a loving brother, or a wife's devoted words. It was the sight of two little girls on stage with their mom's arms around them, unabashedly delighted at seeing their dad.
Too feel-good? This morning, certainly, the Obama campaign, girding for three days of taking on expected GOP nominee John McCain and working out the very real kinks with the restive Clinton arm of the party, would beg to differ.