NPR logo 5 Messages Bernie Sanders Is Sending In His First Campaign Ad

Politics

5 Messages Bernie Sanders Is Sending In His First Campaign Ad

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The presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced Sunday that it will begin airing its first campaign ads on television in Iowa and New Hampshire starting Tuesday.

Sanders' campaign is spending $2 million to air the ads, the same amount that the campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic nomination, spent on her first campaign ads. Clinton's ads have been airing since early August. In the months since then, her campaign has spent an additional $4 million on ads in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The announcement comes as Clinton's campaign has been picking up momentum, extending her lead over Sanders in polls since Vice President Joe Biden announced he would not enter the race nearly two weeks ago.

In a statement, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said, "This ad marks the next phase of this campaign. We're bringing that message directly to the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire."

The ad lays out the familiar message of fighting income inequality and climate change that voters have often heard from Bernie Sanders.

Here are five other messages the ad is sending:

1. Life story: Sanders is known for his message of income inequality and his ideology as a democratic socialist, but he has not played up his own personal story much. Last week, he notably mentioned his Jewish faith at a rally of college students. The first line of this ad reads, "The son of a Polish immigrant who grew up in a Brooklyn tenement." Part of this "new phase" for Sanders' campaign could be creating a more three-dimensional image of the man. As the ad says, "Bernie Sanders. Husband. Father. Grandfather."

2. Civil rights activism: The ad notes that Sanders participated in the 1963 March on Washington, and lingers for a moment on an image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sanders has struggled to appeal to African-American voters, and has had clashes with activists from the Black Lives Matter movement. Activists have also interrupted Clinton events, including a speech in Atlanta on Friday at a historically black college. But her support among African-Americans appears much more solid.

3. Governing experience: Sanders appears to push back on the idea that his idealism would get in the way of accomplishing policy goals. Hillary Clinton contrasted herself with Sanders in the first Democratic debate by saying, "I'm a progressive who likes to get things done." Well, Sanders is trying to tell voters in this ad what he's gotten done by noting praise he received "as one of America's best mayors" when he was the top official in Burlington, Vt., during much of the 1980s. The ad then lists issues he's pushed in Congress.

4. Passionate support: The ad touts that Sanders' campaign has been "funded by over a million contributions," which highlights the grassroots nature of his candidacy. Hillary Clinton's campaign has recently claimed 500,000 individual donors. But more than what the ad says is what it shows — the huge, raucous crowds that have shown up for Sanders around the country. Clinton hasn't been able to match that level of excitement at her events.

5. Honesty: While the ad is positive and focuses on pumping Sanders up, there is one line that seems targeted against Clinton, where Sanders is referred to as "an honest leader." One of Clinton's biggest weaknesses has been that voters don't view her as trustworthy. With the scandal over her private email server roiling since before she officially declared her candidacy in April, Sanders famously said at the first Democratic debate, "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails." But in terms of character traits, Sanders has an advantage over Clinton on issues of trust and authenticity. Why not have the narrator of your campaign ad mention it?