LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
At the moment, Hillary Clinton has an advantage. She has a lot of cash. She has the airways to herself because Donald Trump has yet to run a single general election ad. Clinton and her allies are spending millions of dollars on ads in eight key swing states. NPR's Tamara Keith visited one of those states, Ohio.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hillary Clinton has been on the national stage since 1992. Virtually everyone in America knows her name. And most people have firmly formed opinions of her.
KATIE DORRIAN: She's been planning on running for president for a while now.
TORK WILLIAMS: Liar - she should be in prison.
KELSEY BARRETT: I vaguely remember when her husband was in office. I was pretty young then - didn't know much.
MICHAEL LINK: She's done a lot of good things.
HANNAH RUSSELL: I know that she's often changed her position based on what's popular at the time, and I'm not a super-fan of that.
KEITH: That was Katie Dorrian, Tork Williams, Kelsey Barrett, Michael Link and Hannah Russell - all voters I interviewed in Columbus, Ohio. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake says this familiarity is a real challenge for the Clinton campaign.
CELINDA LAKE: There's this ironic dimension with her where people think, I don't need to research anything; I know her. I've known her for 30 years.
KEITH: How do you introduce a candidate who needs no introduction?
LAKE: If this were a brand-new candidate in today's world, they'd get online, and they'd Google Hillary Clinton, and they'd really research her. But voters don't proactively research her because they think they already know her. So you have to buy their attention, honestly.
KEITH: And that's exactly what the Clinton campaign is doing - blanketing the airwaves with ads in Ohio, Florida, Colorado and five other swing states. The bulk of the spending is on ads that use soft tones to tell voters about Clinton's early career.
(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL ADVERTISEMENT)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's in the quiet moments when you see why she does this. For Hillary, it's always been about kids.
KEITH: This ad about Clinton's behind-the-scenes work on the Children's Health Insurance Program has been in particularly heavy rotation, according to a Democrat tracking media buys. Brian Fallon, a spokesman for the campaign, says it is a perfect illustration of Clinton's passion and pragmatism.
BRIAN FALLON: This is an anecdote where she got results, but it's also an instance that shows the consistency of her commitment to these issues throughout her career.
KEITH: So, smartphone in hand, I played the ad for some voters. For those who are sold on Clinton, it reinforces the reasons they like their candidate. And for those who aren't sold on Clinton...
BARRETT: I honestly just laughed at it because, like - I don't - I don't know.
KEITH: Kelsey Barrett voted Republican in 2012 but says she's undecided this time around. As for the ad...
BARRETT: I think it's - she's over - overcompensating right now with that ad.
KEITH: Overcompensating for Clinton's sky-high negative ratings, says Barrett. Tork Williams is a coal miner by trade and believes Clinton is responsible for the deaths in Benghazi and should be in prison for her email server. The ad, he said, didn't do much to soften his view of Clinton.
WILLIAMS: She may have helped do that. I mean, I'm not saying that she's completely evil, but just the things she's done - she's probably done some good things. There's no doubt about it. Everybody has.
KEITH: But he said there's nothing she could do right or Donald Trump could do wrong that would make him vote for her. The ad puzzled Hannah Russell.
RUSSELL: Well, that's weird. I have never thought of Hillary Clinton and children, really, in the same context.
KEITH: Russell supported Bernie Sanders in the primary. She wasn't particularly persuaded by Clinton's ad, but she says she'll vote for Clinton, given this year's menu of candidates.
RUSSELL: I'd rather eat chicken nuggets than the scorpions.
KEITH: Clinton's campaign and allied super PACs are in the process of trying to convince voters in key states that those nuggets are appetizing and the scorpions are too dangerous to try. And from Trump's campaign, there's not a single ad on the air to argue something different. Tamara Keith, NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.