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Warren campaign aims to soften image with new TV ad

Elizabeth Warren talked to children on a playground after voting in the Massachusetts state primary election on Thursday, Sept. 6.

Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

Elizabeth Warren talked to children on a playground after voting in the Massachusetts state primary election on Thursday, Sept. 6.

In a shift from recent ads, Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren’s campaign released a television commercial Wednesday that shows her mingling with voters and highlights her themes of “struggling working men and women” but leaves the speaking roles to an announcer and voters.

Titled “Your fight is Elizabeth’s Fight,” the 30-second ad is a departure from the style that dominated television spots that ran this summer, in which she played a significant role in talking to the camera.

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The change in advertising style comes after Democratic leaders and activists, upset that animated advocacy was alienating voters, had lobbied her and her staff to soften her image. The Globe reported Wednesday that Warren was facing pressure to make a major shift that would seek to do that, while focusing more directly on her GOP rival, Scott Brown.

The Warren campaign declined to comment on the ad.

The latest ad shows her talking to people of all ages and backgrounds. She pats a burly worker on the arm, kneels to listen to a child whispering in her ear, and sits on a front porch listening to two elderly people.

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Warren supporters were increasingly concerned that her previous ads failed to capture her approachable personality, which has rallied the party’s base in its hopes to unseat Brown.

A preachy speaking style and tendency to gesticulate as she spoke to the camera gave the impression of a “scolding advocate,” they said, while Brown’s own ads have reinforced his likeablility.

Jeffrey M. Berry, a Tufts University political science professor who had been critical of previous ads, said the new one is a significant improvement.

“It’s a strong ad,” Berry said after viewing it. “It provides some continuity with the campaign so far — ‘she’s a fighter’ — but links her more directly with the concerns of ordinary, middle-class voters. It moves quickly through many scenes and is visually engaging.”

But another critic of previous ads, Democratic media consultant Dan Payne, said the one released Wednesday is only a slight improvement.

“It is a change of about 2 percent from what they have been doing,” Payne said. “It is not a fresh look at her arguments. It seems the same. No finger wagging, and that is an improvement. They still have work to do.”

The new commercial opens with Warren greeting voters and the announcer saying: “For anyone who had to take the extra shift to make ends meet. For everyone who planned for a secure retirement but is facing a struggle. For all the people who played by the rules but find the system rigged against them. Know this: Your fight is Elizabeth Warren’s fight.’’

Two women and two men have speaking roles. One woman says, “Elizabeth Warren is on the people’s side.” The second one chimes in, “She’s fought banks, she’s fought Wall Street.’’

The first man, “I think she’s someone who will actually stick up for the middle class.” The other adds: “She’s someone who’s going to be there for us.”

Brown issued a statement lamenting what he claimed was Warren’s intent “to run ads attacking me.”

“I had hoped for better in this campaign, and the voters of Massachusetts deserve better. In the past, she has criticized negative advertising, but now appears ready to adopt it based on the advice she’s getting from her Washington, D.C., advisors,’’ Brown said.

A week earlier, Brown launched a website that depicts Warren as a ranting, hypocritical “fake Indian’’ who is addicted to taxes and spending. The website includes seven sections, each with its own tough hit on Warren.

Michael Levenson of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Frank Phillips can be reached at phillips@globe.com.
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