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Clinton bets the house

Hillary Clinton releases a flood of new ads targeting voters in the key primary states of Texas and Ohio.
/ Source: National Journal

's path to the Democratic nomination has perhaps never been less clear, but few in her campaign would dispute that the trail must wind through Texas and Ohio.

Days after former President Bill Clinton described the importance of the Texas primary in stark, do-or-die terms, the former first lady's campaign released a slew of new ads targeting voters in both states, which hold primaries on March 4. The release of four new state-specific ads represents a substantial investment in advertising resources for the Clinton campaign, but the gamble will be worth it if it helps the New York senator hold on to her narrowing leads in Ohio and Texas.

Capitalizing on a well-received moment in last week's debate, Clinton's campaign released a 60-second spot in Ohio and Texas featuring footage of her reflecting on the hardships faced by ordinary Americans. "The hits I've taken in life are nothing compared to what goes on every single day in the lives of people across our country," she says. Clinton goes on to explain that she's running for president to continue helping people less fortunate than she.

The ad's bare-bones style -- it consists primarily of her debate responses -- seeks to emphasize the seriousness of the subject matter and Clinton's humanizing appeal. The response earned Clinton a standing ovation at the Austin, Texas, debate, and its focus on the hardships facing returning veterans could be especially resonant both in that state and in Ohio.

Clinton further emphasizes her commitment to the military -- as well as health care and education -- in a second ad put out this weekend in the Lone Star State. With its drawling narrator and pragmatic pitch, the spot calls on Texans to consider the things Clinton has done for their state, including expanding health coverage for children and devoting millions of dollars to "train and recruit teachers."

In another narrowly targeted ad, this one running in Ohio, former Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, points to Clinton's Midwestern roots and her devotion to fighting for "working people." Reflecting her campaign's recent trend toward more populist rhetoric, the ad promises Clinton will end corporate subsidies and "rebuild the middle class." It even includes a swipe at NAFTA -- an issue rival has raised far more on the campaign trail. The fourth new ad from the Clinton camp, also airing in Ohio markets, hits similar notes on the economy in a state that has faced much financial anxiety over the past decade.

Lone Star Latinos
Despite a relatively calm debate in Austin last week, the war of words between Clinton and Obama escalated over the weekend, with Clinton criticizing several Obama campaign mailers and accusing the Illinois senator of being hypocritical about advertising by outside groups. Reflecting his new front-runner status, meanwhile, Obama tried to stay focused on his message ahead of the March 4 contests.

Obama has ramped up his advertising in Texas, focusing particularly on Latinos, a group seen as crucial to the outcome of that state's Democratic primary. In addition to reairing a previous ad and launching a new Spanish-language TV spot, the Obama camp recently released a new radio ad in Texas, in which a Spanish-speaking announcer describes the appeal of the Obama message to the Latino community. "Barack Obama is talking to me," he repeats throughout the ad, which also includes segments of an Obama speech.

Clinton enjoys greater name recognition among Latinos, so the Obama ad seeks to introduce the candidate to voters by providing information about his childhood and early career. The announcer then hits on two issues considered very important to Latinos: education and health care. The ad ends with a more generalized appeal to voters: "Politics isn't just for those who like to fight, it's for those who want to build a better future. Obama is talking to me, and he's talking to you, too."