Hillary Rodham Clinton’s first TV campaign ads are set to begin airing Tuesday in Iowa and New Hampshire, delivering a message that analysts say will help her by appealing to female voters and adding authenticity to the rationale for her presidential run.
The campaign made a $2 million ad buy for two 60-second spots — “Dorothy” and “Family Strong” — that feature Mrs. Clinton talking about how the tough and impoverished childhood of her mother, Dorothy, inspired her lifelong advocacy for children and families.
“When I think about why I’m doing this, I think about my mother, Dorothy. She was abandoned by her parents at the age of 8, sent from Chicago to LA to live with grandparents who didn’t want her,” Mrs. Clinton says into the camera in the “Dorothy” ad.
“But people showed her kindness, gave her a chance,” she says. “Like the teacher who saw my mother had no money for food and started bringing her extra from home, whispering, ‘You know, Dorothy, I just brought too much food today.’”
Mrs. Clinton, the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination, says she is running “for all the Dorothy’s.”
“When she needed a champion, someone was there. I think about all the Dorothy’s all over America who fight for their families, who never give up,” she says. “That’s why I’m doing this. That’s why I’ve always done this. For all the Dorothy’s.”
The emphasis on children, the struggles of women and her status as a new grandmother all contribute to a pitch aimed at female voters, whom Clinton campaign officials have said are key to their strategy for victory in the primary and general elections.
On the campaign trail, Mrs. Clinton routinely references the historic aspect of her quest to be the first female president of the United States.
The messages in the ads also dovetail with Mrs. Clinton’s campaign theme of championing working-class Americans, showing how her commitment to public service was rooted in the story of her mother overcoming abandonment as a child partly as a result of the kindness of others.
At the same time, the advertisement attempts to answer criticism that Mrs. Clinton is not authentic or genuine in the persona she presents, said John Geer, chairman of the political science department at Vanderbilt University and a researcher of advertising in presidential campaigns.
“If you have a good reason for running, that shows. The critics of Hillary Clinton will say that this is just a ploy,” he said. “But this is something she can speak to with feeling. This is something she is comfortable with. It builds her credibility.”
Mr. Geer said it made sense for Mrs. Clinton to start spending money on TV ads because she has a massive fundraising advantage in the primary contest and can afford to do it.
“She wants to get a boost in the polls and support the rationale for her candidacy, so it makes a lot of sense,” Mr. Geer said.
The criticism that Mrs. Clinton lacks authenticity emerged as she attempted to shake off her reputation as centrist Democrat and move her campaign sharply left in pursuit of the party’s liberal base. The impression that everything Mrs. Clinton did or said was tested by focus groups grew more pronounced in comparisons with Sen. Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent and avowed socialist who emerged as her chief rival for the nomination with a liberal agenda that he has championed for more than 30 years.
Democratic campaign strategist Craig Varoga agreed that the spots would improve Mrs. Clinton’s image.
“These ads will help her in both states because they show her talking about her personal values, and they also tell a story that many voters may not have heard,” he said. “They will especially help if she follows up with retail campaigning in both Iowa and New Hampshire, since voters in these states expect to meet the candidates one on one and ask questions.
“It’s a good ad for the Democratic primaries, and it won’t hurt at all among general election voters, so it satisfies two goals: help in the short term, but not cause any problems in the battleground states of the general election,” said Mr. Varoga, who worked on the 1996 presidential re-election team for Mrs. Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton.
The ads are part of an initial five-week, approximately $1 million ad buy in each state plus additional digital advertising. In New Hampshire, the ads will run statewide in the Boston/Manchester market and in the Burlington market. In Iowa, the ads will air in the state’s two largest media markets — Des Moines and Cedar Rapids — according to the campaign.
The campaign rejected the perception that the ad buys signaled concern about support for Mrs. Clinton in early-voting states. It noted that Republican candidates and their super PACs had spent or reserved $34 million in airtime in the four early primary states.
In the “Family Strong” ad, Mrs. Clinton highlights her biography and reintroduces herself to young voters who may not know about her early years.
“Her parents abandoned her when she was just 8 years old. She was mistreated. But she never gave up, and she taught me to do the same,” she says in the ad. “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.”
A male narrator then tells how Mrs. Clinton worked for the Children’s Defense Fund, pushed for school reforms as first lady of Arkansas and helped get health care for 8 million children as first lady of the United States.
“You probably know the rest,” the narrator says. “The senator who made sure the heroes and families of 9/11 got the care they needed. The secretary of state who joined the Cabinet of the man who defeated her, because when your president calls, you serve. And now a new title: grandma.”
The ad ends with Mrs. Clinton speaking into the camera. “I believe that when families are strong, America is strong,” she says. “It’s your time.”