Hillary Clinton is spending $2 million on a flight of ads in Iowa and New Hampshire that seek to re-introduce her to a public who almost certainly feels like they already know everything about the former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state.
And, the commercials -- produced by longtime Clinton adwoman Mandy Grunwald and 2008/2012 Obama adman Jim Margolis -- are quite good. "Dorothy", which tells the story of Clinton's mother, abandoned at a young age by her own parents, as a way to explain Clinton's lifetime dedication to fighting for children, in particular stands out.
These are the introductory ads that her campaign never really ran in 2008 -- choosing instead to jump right into making the case for why she was tough enough to be commander-in-chief. At the time, Clinton's campaign, wrongly, assumed that people knew all of the Clinton story they needed to in order to vote for her. The campaign's early ad buy this time around is evidence that they won't make that mistake again.
At the same time, I find it very difficult to believe the Clinton campaign spin that spending $2 million on ads in August -- typically a dead time on the TV airwaves because of the number of voters away on vacation or totally dialed out from the process for the summer --was always part of the plan.
If it was always part of the plan, that Clinton is going on TV at a time when her image has slipped badly nationally and there is rumbling of a potential candidacy by Vice President Joe Biden is one hell of a coincidence. (My guess? The campaign filmed those ads a while back and had them in the hopper, knowing they would run them but not sure of the exact timing.)
The fact is that Clinton's favorable numbers have eroded so rapidly cannot have been expected by her team. Yes, they no doubt knew she would move down from favorability ratings in the upper 60s, but this low, this fast? And that such large majorities of people would say Clinton was neither honest nor trustworthy at this early stage of the campaign?
The ads then seem aimed at doing two things: 1) Showing that Clinton has tools in her arsenal to change how the public perceives her, and 2) Sending a signal that her campaign will move to address problems when they arise rather than waiting until the problems are so large or so ingrained that they can't be solved. (Of course, if you believe the Clinton campaign spin, then point No. 2 is moot since they aren't reacting to anything.)
A reintroduction of Clinton was clearly in order given that the first few months of her candidacy have been defined by her struggles to adequately explain why she had a private e-mail address while at State and to dismiss questions raised about donors to the Clinton Foundation. As Clinton has been mired in those two storylines, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D) has emerged as a surprisingly strong liberal alternative to Clinton -- particularly in New Hampshire.
Those developments have led to some hand-wringing in Democratic circles as the party -- for the first of what will likely be a million times -- frets about whether it was such a good idea to put every egg they have in Clinton's basket. Hence the renewed talk of a bid by Biden despite very little evidence -- aside from his son's dying wish -- that the vice president is going to run.
Whether or not these Clinton ads are long-planned or reactive to her current problems, the campaign's goal is the same: To quiet concerns among the chattering class and doubts among voters that Clinton is ready to not just run but win the race. Given what the campaign has weathered to date, that's a message that needs affirming.