As her supporters chanted, “Persist, persist, persist,” Elizabeth Warren did a little dance. “All I can say is we’re just getting started,” said the Massachusetts senator, whose strong debate performance has re-energized her campaign and fired up supporters in Nevada before the state’s Democratic caucuses.
At a Las Vegas event on Thursday morning, supporters and campaign volunteers were eager to hear their candidate skewer Mike Bloomberg as she had done on stage the night before. Bloomberg “thought he could buy the presidency”, she said. “What could go wrong?”
“Elizabeth Warren!” someone shouted from the crowd.
Wednesday’s widely lauded performance had clearly given the candidate a boost. By the following afternoon, Warren had raised more than $5m, according to her campaign. After lagging behind in Iowa and New Hampshire and fading into the background during the previous debate, the candidate appeared newly energized in Las Vegas.
She enlisted the US representatives Joaquin Castro of Texas and Andy Levin of Michigan to help her warm up the crowd gathered at her campaign’s North Vegas field office, before bounding over to the mic. “After the debate last night, are we ready to make a little change?” she asked. “How about some big change?”
Her supporters were ebullient. “I’ve watched all the debates,” said Consuelo Emerson, 57. “Last night, she was a warrior.” Emerson, a painter based in Las Vegas, showed up to the event with “Warren’s twin” – a life-sized cardboard cutout that the senator signed before posing for a selfie with the duo. “I feel very confident, and also I know she’s going to be the best president,” Emerson said.
Lots of excitement at the Warren event in Las Vegas this morning. Supporter Consuelo Emerson brought “Warren’s twin” for the senator to sign. pic.twitter.com/6O1BHZiPRJ
Elsewhere in the state on Thursday morning, the US representative Deb Haaland, a Warren surrogate, fired up a crowd of volunteers preparing to canvass in Reno, where supporters were giddy discussing the senator’s “epic” performance in Vegas.
“Last night! Amazing, right? Amazing, amazing, amazing,” Haaland said to cheers after she arrived.
“It was the best debate I think I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’ve seen a lot of debates,” the congresswoman told the Guardian before heading out to knock on doors. She dismissed pundits who have been writing off Warren in recent weeks, noting that her third-place Iowa win was treated like a failure while Amy Klobuchar’s third-place victory was celebrated: “She’s in this for the long game.”
Rebeca Wolfe, a 34-year-old Reno supporter, said she felt “re-energized” about the campaign after the debate: “She came out fighting, and we needed that … It seems like we’re back on track, and back where we should be. That’s heartwarming.”
In Reno, @RepDebHaaland cheering on giddy Warren supporters preparing to canvass after last night’s debate. She told me: “It was the best debate I think I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’ve seen a lot of debates.” pic.twitter.com/uoA3EViaRk
Her fellow Reno supporter Tom Flynn, 70, added: “I just can’t wait until she asks Trump about his NDAs.”
Although nearly 75,000 people have already made their choices, opting to vote early, several Warren supporters were confident the debate would turn the tide in time for the caucuses on Saturday. “We worry, you know, that people voted based on what they’ve seen happen in Iowa and Nevada,” said Gwenn Craig, 68, at the Las Vegas event. “But I think it’s really early for people to count Elizabeth Warren out.”
Craig, who drove to Nevada from San Francisco with her partner, Esperanza Macias, to canvass for Warren, noted that Bernie Sanders so far appeared to have more support from young people and people of color in polls. But she added: “I think they’re really underestimating how much support Elizabeth has along people of color – especially among African American women.”
Craig said that, in a Democratic field devoid of people of color, Warren had been best at “speaking up” about the issues most affecting black and Latino Americans. When Warren addressed Bloomberg’s legacy of stop-and-frisk policy in New York, “I thought, did she read what I posted about this?” Craig said. “Because it so mirrored what I think.”
Gwen Craig, 68, along with her partner drove up to Nevada from the Bay Area. She’s been canvassing for Warren here. pic.twitter.com/m066foFnFv
In Nevada, where the majority of the population identifies as a racial minority, Warren’s supporters said they hoped her progressive message would resonate louder than it did in the predominantly white early primary states.
Among the voters she’d convinced was Ishmael Lopez – who plans to participate in the caucuses for the first time after celebrating his eighteenth birthday on Friday. “I came here because I just wanted to see her in person,” he said while standing in line to snap a selfie with Warren. “I’ve never actually seen a presidential candidate before.”
Lopez said he hoped to enroll in the University of Nevada, Reno, next year and get a degree in special education. Warren, who had a brief career as a special needs teacher at an elementary school in New Jersey, “is doing a lot for education”, he said.
Her plans to cancel student debt and provide free college had already won him over, but her performance at the debate boosted his confidence in her, he said. “She’s the only one no one had anything on,” he said. “After the other day – oh yeah, of course she’ll win.”