Hillary Clinton courts Iowa voters by trying to make them feel safe. Bernie Sanders courts them by showing up on their lawns in the middle of the night, with a boom box hoisted above his head.
The new campaign ads from the Democratic rivals pit progressives’ pragmatic instincts against their romantic ones. Clinton’s 60-second spot argues that she is the candidate best prepared to defend liberal priorities against Republican attacks, both on the campaign trail and in the White House. Sanders’s ad is a music video for Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” that illustrates the utopian vision beneath all the senator’s shouting about our corrupt status quo.
Clinton gives viewers a CliffsNotes version of her time in public life: She helped “get health care for 8 million kids” as First Lady, helped New York City “rise again” as senator, and stared Russian President Vladimir Putin right in the eye as secretary of State. Over a photograph of Clinton sitting in the Situation Room with President Obama, a narrator calls her “the one candidate for president who has everything it takes to do every part of the job.”
Sanders introduces Iowa voters to his beautiful coalition. Over the folk-rock humming, farmers bale hay, a middle-class couple feeds their baby, and attractive millennials order coffee. Simon & Garfunkel sing “Let us be lovers,” and a couple in their 60s dance at a Sanders rally; they sing “we’ll marry our fortunes together,” and a montage of Sanders’s supporters invites the viewer to elope with the political revolution.
Clinton promises to “stop Republicans from ripping all our progress away,” as Donald Trump riles up a crowd of angry white people, and Ted Cruz puts his eye through the sights of an assault weapon.
Sanders fills the screen with rapidly multiplying photographs of his individual donors, as Simon & Garfunkel inform us that “They’ve all come to look for America.”
Clinton asks Iowans to settle down with the one they know they should want. Sanders asks them to run away from home in search of adventure and/or single-payer health care.
Iowa has ten days to decide what it wants.