Clinton camp debates media strategy vs. Trump

Clinton camp debates media strategy vs. Trump
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Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin Anti-Trump protests outside White House continue into fifth night Opera singers perform outside White House during fourth day of protests MORE’s campaign is promising to be more positive in the homestretch for the White House to give voters a reason to support the Democrat and not just oppose Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE

One Clinton surrogate said the campaign understands that they need to continue to “give people a reason to vote for her.”

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“There’s no denying that,” the surrogate said. “People need to be inspired by her.” 

At the same time, the surrogate said the campaign shouldn’t lose sight of trying to make Trump “as toxic as possible.” 

“Trump is going into the gutter,” the surrogate said. “I am of the camp that wants to see them continue to focus on Trump and all his faults to make Republican down-ballot candidates as radioactive as possible.”

A recent analysis by Wesleyan University shows that nearly 60 percent of Clinton’s ads since June 8 have been negative.

From Aug. 19 through Sept. 15, a period that saw Trump gain on Clinton in most polls, Clinton’s ads were negative by a 2-1 margin, according to the analysis.

It found that 61 percent of the Clinton ads attacked Trump, compared to 31 percent that were positive ads about Clinton and 8 percent that contrasted the two candidates.

Between June 8 and Sept. 15, Clinton spent $91 million on television ads, including $53 million on negative ads.

Trump, in contrast, spent only $14 million on television ads over the same period, without even running an ad until mid-August. He ran fewer strictly positive or negative ads, as the Wesleyan analysis found 89 percent of his ads were contrast ads and 11 percent were negative ads attacking Clinton.

Trump’s first ad of the cycle — released on Aug. 19 — is called “Two Americas.” The first 15 seconds warns that Clinton’s immigration policy will lead to an influx of dangerous immigrants, while the second half talks about how Trump’s immigration strategy will keep the U.S. safe.

 
The Trump campaign last week unveiled its first fully positive ad of the cycle, making the case in 30 seconds that the GOP nominee is at the head of a “movement,” rather than just a campaign.

A Clinton campaign aide said there has been an effort to release both negative and positive ads.

The campaign released an ad this week, for example, with first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama joins stars in launch of voter registration push The Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Michelle Obama launches voter registration initiative ahead of midterms: report MORE talking about Clinton’s work with children and calling her “a president our kids can look up to.”

Some Democratic strategists would like to see more positive ads from Clinton, who appears to have regained momentum in the race after the first debate on Monday.

They say there is only so far you can go in tearing down a candidate like Trump who has near-universal name ID and dismal approval ratings. 

Clinton has struggled to win over millennial voters, who have been flirting in large numbers with voting for third-party candidates or sitting out the presidential election.

Democratic consultant Craig Varoga says positive ads could also make a difference with independent voters. Voters “in the middle want to vote for someone, not just against his or her opponent,” he said.

He said Clinton’s campaign should spend the next six weeks talking about her plan to rebuild America.

Not everyone agrees that Clinton needs to go more positive in the closing stretch of a close race. They argue that her strategy is spot-on, and that Clinton ads attacking Trump for his comments about women, for example, use the businessman’s own words against him. 

“There’s a scientific reason the Clinton campaign are doing what their doing and that’s because it’s the most effective way in ensuring their voters come out in 40 days,” said Democratic strategist Andrew Feldman. “They need to be reminding people of all the outlandish, hurtful and racist comments Trump has made.

“What we’re seeing is so completely unprecedented that the rules don’t apply. It’s not about approval ratings, it’s about what people remember about these candidates when they’re in the ballot box, and that’s why these negative ads will be so effective,” he said.

Those ads are also the ones that get the most coverage in newspapers and on television, allies point out. 

Positive ads, by contrast, don’t work, especially with a candidate such as Clinton, who has been in the public eye for decades. Supporters acknowledge a large number of voters dislike Clinton, but some say there is little she can do about it.  

 “They’re testing tons of positive ads every day and don’t see them moving the needle because she’s just not likeable,” said one Democrat.

“If she was likeable, she’d be up by 30 points right now. But she’s been brought down by 30 years of attacks against her, and it will be impossible to overcome some perceptions about her with a positive ad,” the source said. “That’s why you run negative ads against Trump. Highlighting the shocking things coming out of his mouth gives people reason enough to get involved.”

A top Democrat close to the campaign says Team Clinton has made a concerted effort to put out more positive videos and will continue to do so in the final weeks before Election Day.

Sources inside and outside of the campaign say they know this is key to having undecided voters support her policies — not just be anti-Trump. 

Clinton herself has said she wants to closer her campaign with a more positive message.

“I want to give Americans something to vote for not just against,” she said in a speech in North Carolina. 

Ellie Silverman and Joe DiSipio contributed.