Hillary Clinton is on the air in Texas (and quite possibly Ohio) with a television ad that takes her argument about experience to a new emotional level. Per NBC’s First Read, the Clinton spot says:
"It’s 3 A.M. and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing. Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call. Whether it’s someone who already knows the world’s leaders…knows the military…someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world. It’s 3 A.M. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?"
First Read makes the obvious comparison to Lyndon Johnson’s demogogic "Daisy" ad from 1964 (a general election ad so inflammatory that it only aired once), but the more exact parallel is to a spot run by Walter Mondale against Gary Hart in the 1984 primaries. Mondale, the "experienced" and "prepared" candidate of the establishment that Hillary is, saturated the primary airwaves with an ad that showed a blinking red phone (sorry for the annoying intro to this video — it’s the only link available), bluntly arguing that Hart lacked the experience and seasoning to respond to an international crisis as president. The Mondale script:
"The most awesome, powerful responsibility in the world lies in the hand that picks up this phone. The idea of an unsure, unsteady, untested hand is something to really think about. This is the issues of our times. On March 20, vote as if the future of the world is at stake. Mondale. This president will know what he’s doing, and that’s the difference between Gary Hart and Walter Mondale."
The Mondale ad began airing after Hart stunned the former Vice-President in the ’84 New Hampshire primary, a verdict that nearly pushed Mondale out of the race. But Mondale steadied himself with wins in two southern states and a handful of big industrial states. Whether the "red phone" ad was a key ingredient in his comeback, though, is debatable: He was also aided by several Hart gaffes and the Hart organization’s inability to convert from a small, rag-tag operation before New Hampshire into a full-fledged national campaign.