Bernie Sanders released his first TV ad of the 2016 campaign season on Sunday morning. The 60-second ad, called "Real Change," will air across Iowa and New Hampshire:
As is common for campaigns, this first ad is thoroughly positive, introducing voters who may not be familiar with Sanders to his biography and background. It begins by calling Sanders "the son of a Polish immigrant who grew up in a Brooklyn tenement," and displays some shots of him as a child and teenager:
Then the narrator says that the "work of his life" — "fighting injustice and inequality" — began back in college. This is accurate. To an unusual degree for a politician, Sanders has been driven by one main cause for decades: checking the power of the wealthy. As I wrote in my profile of Sanders last year:
Even as a student at the University of Chicago in the 1960s, influenced by the hours he spent in the library stacks reading famous philosophers, he became frustrated with his fellow student activists, who were more interested in race or imperialism than the class struggle. They couldn't see that everything they protested, he later said, was rooted in "an economic system in which the rich controls, to a large degree, the political and economic life of the country."
The ad goes on to tell viewers that Sanders voted against the Iraq War in 2002 (left unspoken is that Hillary Clinton voted for it), and that he's fighting for "living wages, equal pay, and tuition-free public colleges." And it shows Sanders saying at a rally that "people are sick and tired of establishment politics, and they want real change."
The ad never mentions the term Sanders has used to describe himself for decades — "democratic socialist." But, interestingly enough, the word "socialize" is displayed onscreen at one point, via the below Time magazine cover. Since every frame of a political ad is carefully chosen, this is a subtle suggestion from Sanders's campaign that he's not going to run and hide from the label:
The ad also spends a bit of time establishing that Sanders is a "husband," "father," and "grandfather" — and shows a picture of his large family:
This is a bit surprising, because in the past, Sanders has generally scorned the media's focus on politicians' personal lives as a distraction from important issues. But because Sanders isn't yet well-known to many voters — and because Clinton has been frequently mentioning that she's a grandmother — he seems to want to establish his own bona fides as a family man.
The Sanders campaign will spend more than $2 million airing this ad in Iowa and New Hampshire. Sanders is currently leading Clinton in New Hampshire but trailing her in Iowa, according to HuffPost Pollster.