Hillary launches first campaign ads: Why is her mother the star?

Hillary Clinton has released the first two television ads for her presidential campaign, and her mother, Dorothy, plays a prominent role in both. 

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has released the first two television ads of her 2016 presidential campaign, and they both feature her late mother, Dorothy Rodham. 

The one-minute ads, titled “Dorothy” and “Family Strong,” will begin broadcasting in Iowa and New Hampshire on Tuesday and continue to air over the course of five weeks. 

In “Dorothy,” Mrs. Clinton narrates the story of her mother’s childhood over old black and white photos of Mrs. Rodham, who passed away at 92 in 2011. 

“When I think about why I’m doing this, I think about my mother, Dorothy,” Clinton begins. She goes on to explain that her mother was abandoned and sent to live with her grandparents “who didn’t want her” at the age of eight, but got by through the small kindnesses of teachers and the family whose house she cleaned. 

“I think about all the Dorothys all over America who fight for their families, who never give up. That’s why I’m doing this,” Clinton concludes. “That’s why I’ve always done this. For all the Dorothys.” 

Mrs. Rodham is also featured in “Family Strong,” which opens with her story but then expands to include more of Clinton’s credentials and photos of her granddaughter, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky. 

Dorothy Rodham has been a prominent figure in Clinton’s campaign since her launch rally in June, where the former Secretary of State told the same story of her mother’s childhood, declaring, “My mother taught me that everybody needs a chance and a champion.”  

She later referred to a single mother she had met recently who was struggling to raise three children and attend community college, saying, “I want to be her champion and your champion.”

“We’re going to make sure everyone knows who Hillary Clinton really is – who she fights for and what has motivated her lifelong commitment to children and families,” campaign manager Robby Mook said in a statement released Sunday evening.

The “tough-mother pitch” makes sense for Clinton, writes Slate columnist John Dickerson, because it paints her as a “scrappy fighter” and “establishes her genuine roots, which shows voters she is not distant from their concerns despite her newfound wealth.” 

A more personal re-branding of Clinton’s image may be necessary, as a recent CNN/ORC poll showed that 57% of Americans don’t find her honest and trustworthy, including 87% of Republicans and 61% of independents.

“Her campaign's response has been: Let's change the subject,” writes Doyle McManus for the Los Angeles Times

The question of trust is “the wrong question to focus on,” Clinton aide Jennifer Palmieri said in an interview with McManus. “The real question is: Do you believe she's going to fight for you? Her whole campaign is focused on proving that, and we do well on that question.”

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