Normally, the problem a candidate faces in a contested primary is figuring out how to differentiate themselves from their opponents when both come from the same party and largely share the same views on many of the issues. But what happens when you’re the frontrunner, and trying to avoid being outflanked by appeals to your party’s base?
Odds are, you wind up with something like the most recent spot from the Hillary Clinton campaign. The new ad addresses the wage gap, and is airing in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Close your eyes, and you might think that you’re hearing the start of an ad for Clinton’s rival, Bernie Sanders: “On average, it takes 300 Americans, working for a solid year, to make as much money as one top CEO.”
In fact, Sanders did hit a similar theme in one of four new ads that his campaign released on the same day as this latest appeal from Clinton. In “The Bottom 100 Million,” Sanders says “The fifteen richest Americans acquired more wealth in two years than the bottom 100 million people combined.”
Clinton offers three policy solutions to close the wage gap:
1. Equal pay for women
2. Higher minimum wage
3. Lower taxes for middle class families
Though he flips the order, Sanders also has three suggestions:
1. Equal pay for women
2. A living wage for workers
3. Higher taxes for Wall Street banks and the ultra rich
Lest you’re thinking the ads are exactly the same, don’t worry; Clinton seizes an opportunity to take a shot at the Republicans running for the other side’s nomination. The narrator warns that Republicans will make the wage gap worse by “lowering taxes for those at the top and letting corporations write their own rules.” On screen, Donald Trump is prominently featured.
It’s not as though issues like equal pay and increasing the minimum wage are new to Clinton; they’ve been in play throughout her career and have played a featured role in her campaign since day one. Should she capture the Democratic nomination, they’ll likely continue to be an important contrast with Republicans for Clinton and for Democratic candidates all the way down the ballot.
But as long as Sanders remains a viable candidate, you can expect economic inequality to be front and center as issue number one for many Democratic primary voters. Rather than draw a difference between herself and Sanders, Clinton is hoping to undercut his support by showing they’re not that far apart on his signature issue. And unlike Republicans racing to the right on issues like immigration, she’s counting on these positions being popular enough not to hurt her in the general election.