The Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders launched his first television ads in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire on Sunday, pouring $2m into an ad buy that cast his campaign as a sharp break with the status quo.
The ads give voters a fuller look at the Vermont independent senator’s biography, as a longtime fighter against injustice and inequality, his humble upbringing in Brooklyn, New York, and his attendance at Dr Martin Luther King’s march on Washington in 1963.
There is also his work as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in Congress and his pledge to take “on Wall Street and a corrupt political system”.
The ad, entitled Real Change mentions the one million contributors to the Sanders campaign and shows footage of his large rallies around the nation. The tag line of the ad calls him: “An honest leader – building a movement with you, to give us a future to believe in.”
The words call to mind President Obama’s 2008 slogan, “Change We Can Believe In”.
“Thousands of Americans have come out to see Bernie speak, and we’ve seen a great response to his message,” said Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver. “This ad marks the next phase of this campaign. We’re bringing that message directly to the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire.”
The 60-second ad, which was first aired on NBC’s Meet the Press, is also a not-very-subtle dig at the Clinton political brand. It notes Sanders’s vote opposing the Iraq war in 2002, which Hillary Clinton supported, a vote she later said she regretted.
“People are sick and tired of establishment politics, and they want real change,” Sanders says in the ad, in footage from a campaign rally.
Sanders is competitive with Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he has raised more than $40m through the end of September, mostly online.
His performance in the first two states could be pivotal in his challenge to Clinton. The Democratic frontrunner enjoys strong support among black and Latino voters who play an influential role in South Carolina and Nevada, which follow the first two states.
“If we win Iowa and New Hampshire, it opens up for us a path toward victory,” Sanders said on Friday in New Hampshire.
Sanders has a history anchored in in the civil rights movement, but a political career rooted in mostly white Vermont. The ad seeks to underscore his career working on progressive causes, showing a photo of him leading a campus sit-in while attending the University of Chicago, an image of King’s March on Washington, and a shot of Sanders walking a picket line.