Hillary Clinton gives mother’s tough upbringing the lead role in first TV ads
As Hillary Clinton seeks the nation’s highest office for a second time, a central theme of her pitch has been the story of her mother as a lesson in resilience. And now, in the first ad buy of her presidential campaign, Clinton is introducing voters to the late Dorothy Rodham first-hand.
An up-close-and-personal Clinton recounts her mother’s tumultuous childhood directly to the camera in the first two ads of her campaign, which were unveiled late Sunday and will air beginning on Tuesday in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Titled Dorothy and Family Strong , the 60-second spots cast Rodham as Clinton’s primary source of inspiration in fighting for women, children and working class families.
Rodham, who passed away in 2011, was abandoned by her divorced parents at the age of eight and sent with her younger sister to live with her grandparents who, as Clinton puts it in one ad, “didn’t want her”. At the age of 14, she ran away and worked in someone else’s home for just $3 a week.
The latter experience, Clinton says in one ad, opened her mother’s eyes.
“For the first time she saw parents who loved and cared for their children. And that’s the kind of loving family she provided for us,” Clinton says. “When she needed a champion someone was there. I think about all the Dorothys all over America who fight for their families, who never give up.”
“That’s why I’m doing this. That’s why I’ve always done this. For all the Dorothys,” she adds.
The two commercials are part of an initial, $1m five-week ad buy in each state, in addition to digital advertising, according to a release from Clinton’s campaign. The ads will run statewide in New Hampshire, and Iowa’s two largest media markets – Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.
To highlight what Clinton is up against, her campaign noted that Republican candidates and allied super PACs have spent or reserved $34m in air time across four early primary states to date.
The emphasis on Rodham, who was fiercely protected by Clinton in the past, has marked a departure from the Democratic frontrunner’s unsuccessful bid for the White House in 2008. The former first lady then struggled to connect with voters, and has sought early on to show a more personal and relatable side this time around.
“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,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said in a statement alongside the release of the ads. “Since day one, we’ve planned for a competitive primary with Hillary herself working to earn every vote and, ultimately, the nomination. This is the natural next step.”
Clinton also drew heavily on her mother’s experience in her first campaign rally in June, telling thousands of supporters in New York what she learned from her mother: “Everybody needs a champion.”
Her first two television ads similarly frame Clinton’s public service as shaped in no insignificant way by the adversity encountered – and overcome – by her mother.
“My mom’s life and what she went through are big reasons why standing up for kids and families became such a big part of my life,” Clinton says in one ad.
A narrator goes on to reference her record working for the Children’s Defense Fund, the Arkansas education reform that was Clinton’s first major policy initiative, and expanding children’s health insurance as first lady.
Clinton wrote extensively about her mother in her book Hard Choices, released last year. Her ads capture some of the same anecdotes, such as the teacher who noticed Rodham didn’t have money for food and would bring extra from home for the struggling child.
“Mom was a fighter her entire life,” Clinton wrote in the memoir. “No one had a bigger influence on my life or did more to shape the person I became.”
With more than two decades in the public eye, the majority of Americans already have preconceived notions of Clinton – reflected by public polling, which currently shows a struggle for the former secretary of state’s favorability ratings. Be it through sharing the Dickensian tale of her mother, or reveling in her new role as a grandmother, Clinton is intent on reversing the trend by introducing voters to the candidate her campaign contends is “the most unknown well-known person in the world”.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2015
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