Clinton Campaign to Air First TV Ads in Iowa, N.H.

Clinton Campaign to Air First TV Ads in Iowa, N.H.
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In Iowa and New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton is shifting her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination from intimate meet-ups with voters to television and digital advertising costing approximately $1 million in each state through Labor Day, her campaign announced Sunday night.

Her first ad buys, beginning Tuesday and repeating for five weeks, are airing earlier than her advertising in 2007, but later than Barack Obama’s that year, in what turned out to be a hard-fought Democratic primary contest lasting well into 2008.

The 60-second ads will tout Clinton’s biography and her record in public life, striving to repeat soft-focus themes about her mother, Dorothy, and her family, but also the former New York senator’s record as a “tenacious fighter” -- themes she’s championed since announcing her candidacy in April. The campaign hopes to humanize Clinton’s steely image, reverse slippage seen in support for her candidacy because of negative evaluations of her honesty, and to compete with what her campaign team says is $34 million in advertising spent or already reserved by leading GOP candidates in four early voting states.

Her team described her decision to launch advertising during the dog days of August as “the natural next step.”

“We’re going to make sure everyone knows who Hillary Clinton really is, who she fights for, and what has motivated her lifelong commitment to children and families,” campaign manager Robby Mook said in a statement. “Since day one, we’ve planned for a competitive primary with Hillary herself working to earn every vote and ultimately the nomination.”

The campaign’s reference to “who she really is” and a “competitive primary” in Iowa and New Hampshire spoke volumes about Clinton’s perceived vulnerabilities as the best-known politician in the presidential race, and also as one of the most polarizing. Polls continue to show Clinton well ahead of her Democratic rivals in the first two voting states, and she is outpacing most GOP contenders in summertime polls leading into the first televised Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6.

Nevertheless, controversies surrounding Clinton’s personal email server, fundraising by the Clinton Foundation and the candidate’s personal family foundation, as well as the Clintons’ rapidly accumulated wealth (disclosed in tax filings Friday) opened new avenues of attack at the outset of her campaign. Her privately disseminated and stored emails are being released on a monthly basis by the State Department and are subject to litigation under the Freedom of Information Act. The former secretary of state, who in December turned over to the government 55,000 pages of what she said were work-related emails while deleting the rest, has agreed to testify publicly Oct. 22 to a House panel probing the 2012 events in Benghazi, Libya, her email habits, and her handling of classified communications.

Americans consistently tell pollsters they give Clinton, 67, high marks for experience they believe is important for any president, but significant percentages of Republicans, independents, and one in five Democrats said they don’t trust her, according to a Quinnipiac University survey released last week.

In that poll, 37 percent of registered voters said they are seeking a candidate who is honest and trustworthy, while 33 percent said they are looking for a presidential contender who cares about their needs and problems. Twenty-six percent said they want someone with strong leadership qualities.

If that national checklist persists, Clinton has terrain to make up in the “cares about you” and “trustworthy” measures.

“The good news for Secretary Hillary Clinton is that she is over 50 percent among Democrats and has a double-digit lead over [Donald] Trump,” Quinnipiac poll assistant director Tim Malloy said. “The not-so-good news is that she is locked in too-close-to-call races with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. And Vice President Joseph Biden runs just as well as her against the top Republicans” in hypothetical matchups, Malloy added.

Biden, 72, has said he will decide whether to compete in the Democratic primary at the end of the summer or later this year. He and surrogates are consulting friends and allies about the race, exploring with those not yet committed to Clinton whether the vice president possesses assets the former first lady lacks, particularly when weighed against the super PAC money and barrage of messaging expected to bolster the Republican nominee next year, according to media reports.

Clinton is being advised on communications and television advertising strategy by Mandy Grunwald, a longtime backer of both Bill and Hillary Clinton, along with GMMB’s Jim Margolis, who produces and helps place the ads. Clinton’s pollster is Joel Benenson, who worked for Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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