Welcome to Ad Watch, a Civil Beat series in which we analyze campaign messages from Hawaii candidates and national spots aimed at Hawaii voters.

The air wars are heating up in advance of this Saturday’s Democratic Party Presidential Preference Poll.

On Wednesday, Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced a last-minute, $50,000 buy for two new Hawaii-specific television spots that will air 314 times between now and Saturday. We look into the two ads behind that buy below.

Hawaii Elections Guide 2016

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who last week announced a $174,000 buy supporting nearly two and a half times that many spots over eight days, countered with a new made-for-Hawaii TV and radio spots featuring his most potent local weapon: U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who surprisingly left a leadership position and the neutrality that spot required last month to endorse Sanders. She has since become a consistent part of Sanders’ campaign remarks.

Later Tuesday, Clinton countered with an online campaign featuring her relationship with another big Hawaii name — President Barack Obama. “We need to protect and build upon the progress our country has made under President Obama. Stand with Hillary and vote this Saturday,” read Clinton’s Facebook ads, with an accompanying photo of Clinton and Obama in dialogue during her secretary of state days. “I will build on the progress we’ve made under President Obama.”

The Clinton campaign has rolled out social media advertising in advance of Hawaii's Democratic Party Presidential Preference Poll this Saturday.

The Clinton campaign has rolled out social media advertising in advance of Hawaii’s Democratic Party Presidential Preference Poll this Saturday.

The Facebook posts link to web pages the Clinton campaign built for Hawaii that allow users to plug in their home address information to get details on their corresponding caucus arrival time, starting time and location and a Google map providing directions.

In the first of her new television spots, “New World,” Clinton focuses more heavily on her own leadership and the difficulty of the presidency, reminiscent of her “3 A.M.” ad from her 2008 presidential campaign. “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,” that ad famously said, in part, with her running against Obama for the Democratic nomination. “There’s something going on in the world. Your vote decides who will answer that call.”

“The world a president has to grapple with — sometimes you can’t even imagine,” begins this year’s version. “That’s the job. And she’s the one who’s proven she can get it done.”

The ad goes on to tout Clinton’s work in securing a “massive reduction in nuclear weapons” from Russia, protecting Social Security, paying for benefits for the National Guard and getting health care for 8 million children. It finishes with a quote from Obama, calling Clinton “an extraordinarily experienced leader, making a difference to people in their day-to-day lives.”

The star of the second ad, however, is Hawaii. Titled “Ladders,” the ad begins with a Clinton voice-over on building “ladders of opportunity” and knocking down barriers that stand in the way.

With footage of Hawaii keiki and classrooms, the Honolulu skyline and Clinton meeting students at a University of Hawaii laboratory, the spot focuses on education issues that Hawaii has had difficulty resolving. “Here in Hawaii, nothing matters more than the education we provide for the next generation. That’s why Hillary wants pre-school for every child, great teachers and college without crushing debt.

The spot ends with Clinton speaking on the campaign trail. “Together, we can break down barriers for our kids. So that they can get the education they need and deserve,” Clinton declares.

But if Hawaii gets the spotlight in Clinton’s second ad, Sanders’ new television spot is all about Gabbard, whose own high-profile endorsement video of Sanders has drawn 238,000 views over the past three weeks.

Titled “Conviction,” the piece features a voiceover from the second-term congresswoman with video of her in her National Guard uniform, Gabbard on a local military base and scenes of presumed veterans who have returned from deployment.

“(Sanders) will exercise good judgment, defend our country and take the trillions of dollars that are spent on these interventionist, regime change, unnecessary wars and invest it here at home,” says Gabbard, before repeating her endorsement of Sanders on camera.

The one-minute radio ad is a slightly expanded version of the 30-second TV spot audio, with Gabbard noting her own combat experience, and offering that what she saw in Sanders “was a heart of aloha.”

It appeared from campaign filings with the Federal Communications Commission that the new ad will be worked into the Sanders’ existing rotation, rather than adding to his overall purchase. The Sanders campaign has declined to disclose details about its Hawaii ad spending.

Join in the discussion of these ads and other issues in the 2016 elections in our new Facebook Group, Civil Beat Politics. 

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