He's got a pollster, the campaign's first. He's launched his first sweeping attack, shaping a major speech last month into a survey of his opponent's shifting positions. And he's drawing on a new strategic plan, as outlined by his top two aides in a controversial interview last week, to get even more combative with Hillary Clinton.
On Tuesday, Bernie Sanders will soon mark another first.
As his campaign makes more aggressive moves to compete with Clinton — still the Democratic party front-runner — Sanders's debut television advertisement, a $2 million buy, is set to begin airing in Iowa and New Hampshire. The spot ends with a new Sanders tagline, casting the U.S. senator as an "honest leader," an apparent contrast with Clinton — as well as a "husband, father, grandfather."
The ad, set against an ominous soundtrack, amounts to a one-minute biographical tour through the life and work of the candidate — from his childhood in a Brooklyn tenement ("son of a Polish immigrant"), to his career in political activism ("the work of his life," featuring photos of Martin Luther King Jr.), his move to Vermont (where "he stood up for working families and for principle"), and his presidential campaign ("funded by over a billion contributions").
The ad buy, previewed by Meet the Press on Sunday, reflects a transition this fall to the next stage in the Sanders operation — one that is larger and more forceful, with a heightened focus on the candidate and an increased investment in the strategic elements of a traditional campaign, such as ads and polls.
Sanders's top aides, Weaver and Tad Devine, have called this "the persuasion phase." (Successor to the "the introductory phase.”)
But as the "political revolution" courses through these various strategic phases — and as his aides spar more with Clinton — the candidate is still taking steps to preserve and emphasize the outsider, grassroots brand that propels his success and set apart his campaign from the look and feel of politics-as-usual.
In the final frames of Sanders's ad, the narrator closes with a reminder: "Building a movement with you..."
Ruby Cramer is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Ruby Cramer at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.