updated 10/22/2007 4:18:08 PM ET 2007-10-22T20:18:08

With polls showing that Americans continue to feel uncertain about the health of the economy, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clintonlooks to be returning to the famous mantra of her husband's 1992 presidential campaign, focusing her message on the economic insecurity of the middle class. This month, Clinton released plans for universal health care, retirement and family leave, dominating news coverage of the Democratic field and elbowing out former Sen. John Edwardsfrom some of his signature domestic issues.

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Seeking to solidify her message on the domestic economy, Clinton on Friday released a new TV ad in Iowa and New Hampshire that argues for a change from President Bush's economic policies, which she suggests have created a "trapdoor" for the middle class. "Too many families are one pink slip, one missed mortgage payment, one medical diagnosis away from falling through and losing everything," Clinton says in the ad.

After comparing the need for change on the economy with the issues of health care and Iraq, Clinton promises an attentive crowd that she will help build "a strong and prosperous middle class" to make America strong again. By showing Clinton speaking before a smiling, applauding crowd, her campaign is trying to portray her as being able to connect with voters in small-scale campaign events.

The ad steps up Clinton's continuing efforts to co-opt the rhetoric of change so integral to Sen. Barack Obama's campaign, promising she will leave behind the policies of "the Bush economy." It also seeks to shift the conversation to economic issues rather than Iraq, a rare weak point for the New York senator during the primary season because of her vote to authorize the use of force in disarming Saddam Hussein.

Aware that coasting on her current lead will only expose her to charges that she's taking the Iowa caucus for granted, Clinton has repeatedly rejected the label of "front-runner," even as polls show her building on her lead over her primary rivals and overtaking her nearest challenger, Obama, in fundraising in the third quarter. By working small events to connect with Iowans and continuing to spend on ads, Clinton hopes to show voters in the Hawkeye State that she's still holding up her end of the conversation.

Getting to know Ron Paul
Clinton's impressive third-quarter fundraising may have led the pack of presidential hopefuls, but Republican long-shot Ron Paulactually registered the largest percentage gain during the period, more than doubling his take and racking up the most receipts from military donors. Like Clinton, Paul almost immediately began putting his donations to work, purchasing radio airtime in four early primary states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

A biographical spot released on Oct. 12 highlights Paul's main hurdle in breaking out of the third tier: Despite his devoted Internet following, most people still don't know who he is. In the 60-second ad, an announcer repeats Paul's name nine times and describes his service as a doctor and a Texas congressman. The refrain -- "Who is Ron Paul?" -- sounds like an invitation to Google the candidate's name for answers. Campaign Communications Director Jesse Benton said supporters at the grassroots level have been trying to get the word out using similartactics.

A week later, the Paul camp released another new radio ad capitalizing on last week's internal fight over who is the "real conservative" in the GOP field. Emboldened by his fundraising boost (which propelled Paul to fourth place in the GOP money race), Paul takes veiled shots at his top rivals in the ad, accusing them of supporting "amnesty for illegal aliens," "out-of-control spending" and "flip-flopping" on the issues. "What's Republican about any of that?" an announcer asks. "The real Republican is Ron Paul."

Neither of the ads mentions what is considered Paul's other major hurdle in the Republican primary race: his opposition to the Iraq war. But the "Real Republican" ad does mention his opposition to "nation-building" -- part of Paul's strategy of casting the war as antithetical to traditional conservative foreign policy positions.

Recalling a victory In Iraq
He may not have the detailed policy proposals of Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., or the White House experience of Clinton, but New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardsonwants voters in early primary states to know he's ready to inherit the war in Iraq. Continuing his campaign's emphasis on ending the war and bringing about a diplomatic solution, Richardson released a new campaign ad today in Iowa and New Hampshire that seeks to paint him as a bold, effective negotiator and a compassionate man.

In the spot, two men who were taken hostage by Saddam Hussein's government in 1995 tell the story of their seizure and of then-Rep. Richardson's efforts to secure their release. "Here's this big guy, you know, he is a pretty big guy," says Bill Barloon, eyes growing damp. "And he's got a heart as big as he is." The ad has a distinctly different tone than Richardson's most famous spots, in which he introduced himself to voters through a series of comedic job interviews, and reflects his efforts to show himself as a serious candidate for the Democratic nomination.

Copyright 2012 by National Journal Group Inc.


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