Hil­lary played nice with Bernie. Will that help her bat­tle Don­ald?

▶ Clin­ton had it easy in the pri­mary, but that’s about to change ▶ “We’ve never seen a con­trast like this be­fore”

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Contents - Joshua Green and Tim Hig­gins

On June 7, Hil­lary Clin­ton and Bernie San­ders con­cluded what had be­come, by the end, a con­tentious Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial pri­mary. As the race wore on, the can­di­dates grew more ag­gres­sive in speeches, in de­bates, and on Twit­ter. San­ders in par­tic­u­lar crit­i­cized Clin­ton’s hawk­ish­ness and sym­pa­thy to­ward Wall Street, at­tacks am­pli­fied by the me­dia. But this an­i­mos­ity was en­tirely ab­sent from one im­por­tan tant realm. Ac­cord­ing to Kan­tar Me­dia, Clin Clin­ton and San­ders aired 206,528 spots bet be­tween them this year—and not one was deemed “neg­a­tive” by the an­a­lysts in Kan­tar’sK Cam­paign Me­dia Anal­y­sis Gro Group (CMAG). “In an open pres­i­den­tial pri­mary, this is prob­a­bly un­prece­den dented,” says El­iz­a­beth Wilner, se­nior vice pres­i­dent for po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­tis­ing at Kan Kan­tar. In­deed, Don­ald Trump, the pre­sum sump­tive Repub­li­can nom­i­nee, faced rou roughly $62 mil­lion in at­tack ads dur­ing the pri­maries. Most of the spots were aire aired by fel­low Repub­li­cans. “We’ve nev never seen a con­trast like this be­fore,” say says Wilner.

R Repub­li­can strate­gists hope this disp dis­par­ity in at­tacks will re­dound to the their ben­e­fit. Clin­ton’s un­fa­vor­a­bil­ity rat­ings are only some­what bet­ter tha than Trump’s, even though she face faced no neg­a­tive ads from San­ders. (GO (GOP cam­paigns and su­per PACS did feat fea­ture her in a few ads.) Repub­li­cans bel be­lieve they can in­flict more dam­age. “Pe “Peo­ple think she has these re­ally hig high neg­a­tives, but in re­al­ity no­body has laid a glove on her yet,” says Sea Sean Spicer, chief strate­gist for the Rep Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee. “On “Once you see a full-fledged ad cam­paig paign to re­in­force her neg­a­tives, she’ll hav have a lot fur­ther to fall.”

T The strange truce in the Demo­cratic prim pri­mary was due to a cou­ple of quirks. San San­ders doesn’t be­lieve in at­tack ads. The clos­est he came was a com­mer­cial that briefly flashed an im­age of Clin Clin­ton’s name in a news­pa­per head­line and aired only in South Carolina. And Clin­ton ini­tially felt she didn’t need to b bother at­tack­ing San­ders. Later on, ibit be­came clear that she couldn’t af­ford to—she’ll need to win over his sup­port­ers to beat Trump. “While run­ning neg­a­tive spots tends to be more ef­fec­tive

than peo­ple like to ad­mit, it also drives up your own can­di­date’s neg­a­tives,” says Ben Labolt, a strate­gist on Barack Obama’s 2008 cam­paign. “Given where Clin­ton is right now in terms of fa­vor­a­bil­ity rat­ing, it’s not a sur­prise that she didn’t run neg­a­tive spots against San­ders dur­ing the pri­mary.” That could help Clin­ton as she tries to win San­ders vot­ers. The ab­sence of neg­a­tive ads is a marked shift from 2008, when Obama spent $58 mil­lion on pri­mary ads, while Clin­ton spent $33 mil­lion. Although CMAG didn’t mea­sure sen­ti­ment that year, both can­di­dates aired neg­a­tive spots. The most iconic was a Clin­ton ad bor­ing in on Obama’s lack of ex­ec­u­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. “It’s 3 a.m., and your chil­dren are safe and asleep,” a nar­ra­tor in­tones over images of slum­ber­ing kids. “But there’s a phone in the White House, and it’s ring­ing. Some­thing’s hap­pen­ing in the world. Your vote will de­cide who an­swers that call.”

The force­ful­ness of the 3 a.m. ad tem­po­rar­ily up­ended the race. “We ac­tu­ally only spent $50,000 on air­time,” says Mark Penn, the ad’s cre­ator and Clin­ton’s chief strate­gist in 2008. But it got picked up by cable news chan­nels, and that “set off a whole de­bate” about who would bet­ter han­dle a for­eign cri­sis, Penn says.

The hit on Obama came in the form of a tele­vi­sion ad be­cause po­lit­i­cal strate­gists have his­tor­i­cally avoided let­ting can­di­dates de­liver such at­tacks for fear it would poi­son their im­age. “It’s odd that the can­di­dates them­selves are now car­ry­ing the most neg­a­tive mes­sages,” says Penn. “It used to be, you left that for the ads.” One rea­son for the change is Trump, who’s demon­strated that the me­dia is now far more apt to pick up at­tacks made by the can­di­dates.

While Clin­ton hasn’t yet faced the full blast of Trump’s ad­ver­tis­ing on­slaught, Demo­cratic strate­gists claim that her free pass in the pri­maries doesn’t leave her vul­ner­a­ble. “It’s dif­fi­cult for an op­po­nent to de­fine some­one who’s al­ready so well-known as a can­di­date,” says Labolt.

What’s more, says Mark Longabaugh, a se­nior ad­viser and me­dia con­sul­tant to the San­ders cam­paign, tough ads dur­ing the pri­maries can crip­ple a nom­i­nee in the fall: “Af­ter a lot of years in this busi­ness, let me tell you, it is al­ways bet­ter go­ing into a gen­eral elec­tion when you do not have a lot of dam­age from pri­mary ads be­ing run against you.” Mitt Rom­ney’s ex­pe­ri­ence in 2012 is a good illustrati­on. Repub­li­can pri­mary op­po­nents such as Newt Gin­grich and Rick Perry branded him a “vul­ture cap­i­tal­ist,” an at­tack Obama picked up and used to de­feat him. An even bet­ter ex­am­ple is Bob Dole. “Dole limped into the ’96 elec­tion ex­tremely dam­aged,” says Longabaugh. “Steve Forbes just car­pet-bombed him in the Ari­zona pri­mary and in Iowa, and [Bill] Clin­ton ended up win­ning both in the fall. It’s a tan­gi­ble ex­am­ple of how the dam­age car­ries over.”

By this mea­sure, Trump is the more vul­ner­a­ble can­di­date head­ing into the fall. And Clin­ton has al­ready be­gun to press the at­tack on his fit­ness for of­fice first raised by his Repub­li­can pri­mary op­po­nents. On June 6, af­ter Trump at­tacked the Mex­i­can an­ces­try of Gon­zalo Curiel, the judge over­see­ing a civil case against him in­volv­ing Trump Uni­ver­sity, Clin­ton’s cam­paign pro­duced a neg­a­tive ad. It fea­tured a suc­ces­sion of crit­ics who all shared one thing in com­mon. As Clin­ton her­self tweeted: “[email protected]­al­don­aldtrump’s big­oted com­ments about a Latino judge are so dis­gust­ing, even other Repub­li­cans are of­fended.”

“It’s dif­fi­cult for an op­po­nent to de­fine some­one who’s al­ready so well-known as a can­di­date.” ——Obama 2008 strate­gist Ben Labolt

The bot­tom line Democrats hope the ab­sence of neg­a­tive ads from San­ders dur­ing the pri­maries will put Clin­ton in a stronger po­si­tion to face Trump.

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