In the latest television ad from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, her campaign takes aim not at voters’ intellect, their logic, or their rationality. Instead, Clinton's "Mirrors" ad shows the former secretary of state is setting her crosshairs right over their hearts — which makes sense. It’s the freshest manifestation of an election that’s not being fought in voters’ minds, but their hearts.
The ad begins with a lingering candidate-approval, showing Clinton embracing a young supporter while her voice-over recites the legal language. We then see a series of shots of girls looking at themselves in the mirror; after a few seconds, though, we hear the voice of Donald Trump making his most vile comments about women. With a few brief cutaways to footage of Trump speaking, the ad mostly focuses on these young women examining their reflections in bathrooms, hallways, car mirrors, and selfies. The ad closes with Trump in an older interview being asked, “You treat women with respect?" Trump replies, “I can’t say that, either,” before grinning pruriently. After fading to black, the ad shows the text “Is this the president... we want for our daughters?”
There’s a wrenching quality to the video; my own personal emotional reaction was I hope they can’t hear him. It’s also a brilliant ad, because while the actresses that appear in the ad (hopefully) weren’t made to listen to those specific remarks, the real takeaway is of course, they can hear him. All women can hear him.
That the Clinton campaign is making such an emotional play for voters shows just how much this election has become about emotional appeals. Sure, a new study from the RAND corporation shows that Clinton’s health care plan would expand coverage to 9 million more people, while Trump’s plan would cause 20 million people to lose coverage. However, I believe that what’s really going to move the needle in this election are the feels. And this ad has all of them.
To be clear, I don’t know that this ad is necessarily meant to get more people to vote for Clinton. If you’ll indulge me for a few moments of amateur pop psychology, while I imagine there’s some small portion of female voters who may not be nuts about Clinton but who might be induced to cast their ballot for her to keep a lech like Trump out of the White House, I suspect they're not the main target. Rather, I believe the real aim of this ad is at mainstream Republicans — the ones who might not ever vote for Clinton, but who might be prevailed upon to abstain from casting a vote for Trump. Not to get too cliché, but I bet fathers of daughters are right under the bull's-eye of this particular campaign.
This isn’t first time an appeal like this has been made. During the primaries, the Republican Anti-Trump Our Principles PAC released an ad of women reading Trump’s sexist statements in an effort to derail his surging bid for the GOP nomination. And in July, a week before the Republican National Convention, the Clinton campaign released their ad “Role Models,” which featured a similar setup to “Mirrors,” only this time it was children watching TV, hearing Trump’s more hateful quotations.
At this late stage of the election, it’s unclear how mutable voters’ inclinations are. However, with ads like these, it’s clear that the Democrats aren’t afraid of going after voters hearts — and hoping to get them in the gut.