WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders launched his first television ads in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire on Sunday, pouring $2 million into an ad buy that casts his campaign as a sharp break with the status-quo.
The ads give voters a fuller look at the Vermont independent senator's biography, as a longtime fighter against injustice and inequality, his humble upbringing in Brooklyn, New York, and his attendance at Dr. Martin Luther King's March on Washington in 1963. There's also his work as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in Congress and his pledge to take "on Wall Street and a corrupt political system."
The ad, entitled "Real Change," mentions the 1 million contributors to his campaign and shows footage of his large rallies around the nation. The tag line of the ad calls him, "An honest leader — building a movement with you, to give us a future to believe in," calling to mind President Barack Obama's 2008 slogan of "Change We Can Believe In."
"Thousands of Americans have come out to see Bernie speak, and we've seen a great response to his message," said Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver. "This ad marks the next phase of this campaign. We're bringing that message directly to the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire."
The 60-second ad, which was first aired on NBC's "Meet the Press," is also a not-subtle dig at the Clinton political brand. It notes Sanders' vote opposing the Iraq War in 2002, which Clinton supported and later said she regretted. "People are sick and tired of establishment politics, and they want real change," Sanders says in footage from a campaign rally.
Sanders is competitive with Clinton in the first contests of Iowa and New Hampshire, and he has raised more than $40 million through the end of September, mostly online.
His performance in the first two states could be pivotal in his challenge to Clinton. The Democratic front-runner enjoys strong support among black and Latino voters who play an influential role in South Carolina and Nevada, respectively, which follow the first two states.
"If we win Iowa and New Hampshire, it opens up for us a path toward victory," Sanders said Friday in New Hampshire.
Sanders has a history anchored in in the civil rights movement, but a political career rooted in mostly white Vermont. The ad seeks to underscore his career working on progressive causes, showing a photo of him leading a campus sit-in while attending the University of Chicago, an image of King's March on Washington and walking a picket line.