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How An Effective Clinton Immigration Ad Reverberated Through The Sanders Campaign

A tender Clinton moment in Nevada led to discussions over how Sanders can better connect with young Latinos and DREAMers.

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On the flight back from Nevada the day after Hillary Clinton won a close but comfortable caucus, a conversation between two key Bernie Sanders strategists turned to why the Vermont senator had lost the state.

Mark Longabaugh, a top Sanders aide and business partner of campaign manager Jeff Weaver, sat with Chuck Rocha, a consultant working on Latino strategy and Spanish-language advertising, and the two discussed an ad released after a teary-eyed Clinton comforted a young girl who began to cry while telling the story of her parent's deportation order.

According to a source with knowledge of the conversation, the two talked about the effectiveness of Clinton's relationships with DREAMers in the state and the need for Sanders to develop similar relationships. An idea was thrown out that Sanders could do an ad with a DREAMer around Washington D.C. monuments, with the tagline, "This Is Our America."

Rocha confirmed the conversation but declined to comment for the story.

Coming off a 47-point blowout in South Carolina, the campaign understands that it has to do better with both black and Latino voters to extend the primary against Clinton, and part of that strategy is figuring out how to leverage Sanders strength with young Latinos.

"When I saw that Hillary ad I was like, 'fuck me,' we are talking to the masses and getting things done but we need to step up our game everywhere we can," a Sanders source said.

After the results in South Carolina came out on Saturday night, the Sanders campaign released a video with its staffer Erika Andiola, a well-liked and nationally known immigration activist. Andiola tied the DREAMer movement she knows to Sanders' brand of anti-establishment politics.

The next day, Sanders and Rep. Raul Grijalva met with DREAMers in Colorado, where the campaign is hoping to win on Super Tuesday.

Andiola said the early states have shown Sanders receiving more than 80% support from young people. "That’s what I see with DREAMers, too," she told BuzzFeed News.

The idea for the video was born after the Nevada results, Andiola — who becomes emotional in the video while telling the story of how her mother was nearly deported — said.

But she stressed that the impetus came from being part of the campaign and feeling that, once again, Latino leaders and establishment politicians are getting away with merely talking about "comprehensive immigration reform" as something the Latino and immigrant community needs, and not challenging Clinton enough on the issue.

"I wanted to tell people why — why I’m here and the reason why I see a lot of parallels between what Bernie’s fighting against and what the DREAMers have been fighting against for so many years," she said.

At least in terms of exposure online, the Sanders embrace of DREAMers in this instance worked. Andiola's video has been viewed 325,000 times on Facebook and 134,000 times on YouTube. Clinton's video with the young girl in Nevada has been watched 154,000 times on Facebook and 190,000 times on YouTube.

But Clinton has begun to lean into a message of "love and kindness" since South Carolina — a message she has a long history with — perhaps looking toward a general election matchup with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, and the reverberations of her ad went well beyond the Sanders campaign.

A Republican operative was similarly affected.

"If that's the Hillary Clinton we saw 100 times instead of one time, we would be in trouble," the operative said.

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Adrian Carrasquillo is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Adrian Carrasquillo at adrian.carrasquillo@buzzfeed.com.

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