Capitol Alert

Kamala Harris becomes first major candidate with TV ad as she debuts ’3 a.m. agenda’

Kamala Harris is airing the first television ad of her 2020 presidential campaign in Iowa starting Thursday as she tries to introduce herself to a crucial set of Democratic voters.

The six-figure ad buy will air in Iowa, which kicks off the Democratic primary with its caucuses Feb. 3, and is timed to coincide with Harris’ five-day bus tour there.

The California senator is scheduled to arrive in Sioux City, on the state’s western border, on Thursday afternoon, and she is expected to make her way across the state, including stops in Fort Dodge, the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines and Davenport.

According to the Republican ad-buying firm Media Buying, Harris’ campaign is spending just under $200,000 to air the ad on broadcast, cable and satellite television in the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids media markets. It will run for the coming week, the firm said.

Harris is the first of the top-tier presidential candidates to air television advertisements.

California-based investor and philanthropist Tom Steyer and the pro-Jay Inslee group Act Now on Climate are also currently airing ads in Iowa, according to Media Buying. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney have bought significant television air time in the state, as well.

None of those candidates has registered in national polls.

President Donald Trump has not yet launched television ads for his reelection campaign, but he has placed small radio buys in advance of various rallies.

Harris has made South Carolina, which will hold its primary on Feb. 29, a top focus of her presidential campaign. She has visited Iowa the second-most of the first four primary states, which also include New Hampshire and Nevada. Polls from late June and early July show she is very competitive in Iowa.

Harris’ ad begins with some personal history, featuring images of her mother, cancer researcher Shyamala Gopalan, as well as Harris and her sister, Maya, as young children.

“She’d work all day then pour her whole heart into Maya and me when she got home,” Harris says, off camera. “And then, after we were fed and in bed, our mother would sit up trying to figure out how to make it all work.”

The ad then shifts to a shot of a kitchen table, with Harris talking about her “3 a.m. agenda” — a set of proposals she argues will help address the concerns that keep Americans up at night and bring “real relief for families like yours.”

Her campaign argues that is a key difference between Harris and several of the other leading candidates in the Democratic race, who have promised sweeping reforms to the American economy and political system. “Instead of ideological or theoretical debates, Sen. Harris is focused on an action plan to directly improve the lives of American families,” spokesman Ian Sams said in a statement announcing the ad buy.

Adam Wollner contributed to this report.

Emily Cadei works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, where she covers national politics and policy for McClatchy’s California readers. A native of Sacramento, she has spent more than a decade in D.C. reporting on U.S. elections, Congress and foreign affairs for publications including Newsweek, Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call.