Sen. Kamala Harris of California will make the first television advertising purchase of her presidential campaign Thursday, investing in a six-figure TV and digital buy across the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa.
Harris is rolling out the one-minute ad on the first day of her planned five-day bus tour across the state. The commercial buy also makes her the first of the top-tier candidates to hit the commercial airwaves on Iowa television, as the 2020 Democratic hopefuls descend on the state this week for the Iowa State Fair and other big political events.
The ad serves as an introduction to both Harris’ upbringing and her pitch to Iowa voters.
It opens with a childhood picture of Harris, her sister and now campaign chair, Maya, and her mother, who raised her daughters as a working single mother.
“She’d work all day, then pour her whole heart into Maya and me when she got home,” says Harris in the voice-over. “And then, after we were fed and in bed, our mother would sit up trying to figure out how to make it all work.”
The childhood images in the ad then fade away to a picture of a generic kitchen table.
The ad steers clear of lofty campaign imagery and instead delves into the kitchen table issues at the heart of what Harris calls her “3 am agenda” – solving the immediate problems that worry Americans, from being unable to afford expenses to health care and unequal pay for women.
“Instead of ideological or theoretical debates, Senator Harris is focused on an action plan to directly improve the lives of American families,” said Ian Sams, the Harris campaign’s national press secretary, in a statement. “Right now, millions of Americans worry about making ends meet each month, getting the health care they need, affording their rent, or whether their child will be a victim of a school shooting the next day, and her agenda directly addresses the issues that keep people up at night.”
Harris brings up the lessons from her mother at nearly every single campaign stop. The simple struggle of affording life is one she grew up with, and now weaves into the purpose of her campaign.
She’s frequently talked about the cost of tires on a vehicle, and how the unexpected expense of replacing them could cripple the accounts of many working Americans. Her pitch to voters has been to repeal the tax cuts under President Donald Trump and replace them with a wide-ranging working- and middle-class tax cut.
“That’s what I’m fighting for – real relief for families like yours,” Harris says in the ad. “Not in 20 years. Not in 30. Starting my first day as president. Because you’ve waited long enough to get a good night’s sleep.”
The Harris campaign confirmed that of the six-figure buy, $66,500 in ads were purchased for the Des Moines television market, running from August 8 until August 14. A campaign aide would not specify any further breakdown in other Iowa television markets or digital ad buys.
Dave Nagle, a former US congressman from Iowa and now state Democratic Party chairman, questioned any ad buy from any presidential candidate at this stage, openly calling it “a waste of money.”
“If TV ad buys would work at this time, then John Delaney would be leading the field. And Tom Steyer would be in second place,” Nagle said in an interview with CNN.
Noting that most Iowans are not paying attention yet and instead focusing on summer vacation, he cautioned how productive a large ad buy is at this stage.
The former congressman also warned candidates against showing too much of their hand too early. Nagle remembered how in the summer of 2007 then-Sen. Hillary Clinton sent former President Bill Clinton to the Hawkeye State for a Fourth of July picnic, to the amazement of voters, until the act felt repetitive by November.
“They brought the big dog in and they spent that energy and they spent that impression,” he said. “You leave yourself open to the fact that other candidates are going to launch more into intense efforts later and you’re not going to be in a position to match them.”
Nagle, who calls Harris one of his favorites in the 2020 Democratic field, added, “Even with the minimum attention she’s giving to us, she’s viable. She’s going to be a contender. She can’t win the state in August and she can’t lose the state in August, unless you do something catastrophically stupid. So I’m befuddled by it.”
On Harris’ advertising buy specifically, Nagle called it unwise, saying, “I think they’re spending resources that she’s going to regret having extended. There are three rules to campaigning in Iowa. Rule number one: Organize. Rule number two: Organize. Rule number 3? Get hot at the end.”