WASHINGTON — Facing increased competition from within her own party, Hillary Rodham Clinton is spending $2 million airing the first television ads of her presidential race in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
The ads, which start on Tuesday and run statewide, focus on Clinton's work on behalf of families and relationship with her late mother — central themes of her early campaign. The spots are part of an effort to reintroduce one of the country's biggest political celebrities as a progressive fighter who understands the struggles of average Americans.
"After law school she could have gone to a big firm but instead went to work for the Children's Defense Fund. In Arkansas, she fought for school reform to change lives forever. Then as first lady she helped get health care for eight million kids," says a narrator in one of the ads. "You probably know the rest."
A second ad focuses almost entirely on the life story of Clinton's late mother, Dorothy Rodham, who overcame a bleak childhood marked by abandonment, neglect and poverty.
"I think about all the Dorothys all over America who fight for their families, who never give up," says Clinton in the ad. "That's why I'm doing this. That's why I've always done this. For all the Dorothys."
The new spots come amid fresh speculation that Vice President Joe Biden may challenge Clinton for the party's nomination. While she remains the front-runner in the race, she's faced signs of weakness in recent weeks, including declines in her favorability ratings and views of her trustworthiness. In recent weeks, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has attracted large crowds with his liberal economic message — evidence his team says of a hunger in the party for an alternative to Clinton.
So far, he's resisted attacking Clinton, focusing instead on contrasting his more liberal views with hers on issues like Wall Street regulations and the Keystone pipeline.
"I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton," he said in an interview with ABC News on Sunday. But, he added: "She and I disagree on many issues."
Clinton aides, meanwhile, have been trying to lower expectations for her primary performance by arguing that both Iowa, where the state's caucuses bring out the most passionate party voters, and New Hampshire, next door to Sanders' home state of Vermont, favor their competition.
The emphasis on family issues is a change in course from Clinton's failed White House bid in 2008, when her campaign focused on her experience and toughness. Though Clinton has spent decades on the American political stage, her team insists that voters don't really know much about her background. They've focused on reintroducing the former Secretary of State, presidential candidate, and New York senator as a grandmother-in-chief, highlighting her family relationships and embracing her role in history as the first potential female president.
A number of Republican candidates have already begun airing ads, attempting to distinguish themselves in a crowded primary field. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's campaign has invested more than $12 million in ads that start airing at the end of the year in Iowa, New Hampshire and other states. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has spent $1 million and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's presidential campaign nearly $500,000 on spots in the early-voting state of New Hampshire.