As Vice President Joe Biden mulls a primary challenge to her, liberal Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders gains on her, and contenders on the GOP side build their campaigns around attacking her, Hillary Rodham Clinton is about to make a show of force.
Clinton, the former secretary of State and front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president, will begin steering her considerable campaign war chest this week toward an early and aggressive television buy in Iowa and New Hampshire, the states with the first nominating contests. Her campaign announced Sunday that she is spending $1 million in each state to purchase airtime for the next five weeks.
The first spots to be rolled out are 60 seconds each, and they reintroduce Clinton to voters through the story of her mother, an up-by-the-bootstraps woman who was abandoned as a child and who succeeded thanks to the support of people who believed in her during her early, hardscrabble years.
In telling the story of her mother, Dorothy, Clinton cites a teacher who brought her mother food. She also talks about an employer whose home Dorothy worked in who opened her eyes to the value of a nurturing family.
"When she needed a champion, someone was there," Clinton says in one of the two ads the campaign shared with reporters. "I think about all of the Dorothys all over America who fight for their families, who never give up."
The other spot also starts with her mother but quickly pivots into Clinton's own life of public service, from forsaking a big law firm job so she could work at the Children's Defense Fund to helping expand healthcare for children years later as first lady.
"You probably know the rest," the narrator said, rolling into a few more accomplishments, then adds, "And now a new title: grandma."
The ads are what is to be expected from a front-runner. Safe, biographical, nonconfrontational. But the placement of them is clearly intended to put challengers on notice. A Clinton advisor said the campaign is particularly concerned about some $34 million in television time Republican candidates and political action committees have already reserved in the two early states, much of which will be used to vilify Clinton.
The $2-million television time purchase is also coming amid heightened chatter about Biden. The vice president is said to be considering a run for a host of reasons, including a reevaluation of his priorities in the aftermath of the death of his son, Beau, in May, and fresh poll numbers that suggest Clinton may be more vulnerable than previously thought.
Biden is planning to wait until next month to make his decision. The launch of this pricey advertising campaign by Clinton makes clear the juggernaut he would be up against. It also could help Clinton reverse some of the gains made by Sanders. The 50-plus-point lead Clinton once had over Sanders in Iowa, where he started the race as a relative unknown, has been cut in half. And several polls show the Vermont senator is within 10 points of Clinton in New Hampshire.
"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," said a statement from Robby Mook, Clinton's campaign manager. "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."