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Before a rally for volunteers at Manchester Community College, the normally unflappable Elizabeth Warren was clearly moved as she met with a crowd of volunteers outside waiting to pick up their canvassing assignments.
"This is a fight from the heart, and I’m deeply grateful for you to be here to fight it alongside me," she told them.
Inside, nothing about the moment felt like a campaign for a candidate in third place. As the volunteers, nearly 800 of them, waited for Warren to take the stage, they sang the Fenway Park anthem "Sweet Caroline."
"Now, you’re getting to go out and knock some doors, do a little democracy, but here’s the thing: there’s still a lot of folks out there who are really starting to get worried, worried that this fight against Donald Trump might not be winnable," Warren told the volunteers. "You know, the way I look at this, I’ve been winning unwinnable fights pretty much all my life."
It's go time for Warren's campaign organization as she works to climb her way up behind Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, who both declared victory in Iowa and are leading in polls in New Hampshire. Warren's operation flexed its muscles Saturday, as hundreds of volunteers flooded New Hampshire from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. (Watch our Instagram story here.)
"I think she’s doing well," said Lauren Gontarz, a self-described military wife who drove up from Connecticut. "I think Iowa was a small viewing of what America may think, but I think that we can’t count her out just because of one state. There are a lot more states and a lot more people."
Among the army of canvassers who fanned out across Manchester was Warren herself, along with her husband, Bruce, and their dog, Bailey.
Reporters were not allowed to get close to record Warren's conversations with voters. In between houses, Warren said they have one main message for her.
"You know, it’s interesting," Warren said. "The main issue is: 'Beat Trump. You gotta beat Trump. You gotta beat Trump. Tell me who’s going to beat Trump.' And my case is: I’m going to bring this party together. We can’t go into this like we did in 2016.”
Before she can unite the party, Warren has to defeat Buttigieg and Sanders. Manchester, the biggest city in the state, is key to that effort.
Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, said Manchester is a critical battleground for all top four candidates.
"If Joe Biden doesn’t do well in Manchester, he’s going to have serious problems across the state," Smith said. "If Sanders or Warren do better than expected among the progressive voters in the more progressive upscale Manchester wards, you’re going to have a real good idea where they’re going to go. And then Buttigieg: if he can come in first or second in Manchester, that’s a real strong indication that he can carry the state."
In Manchester – and across the state – Warren has one of the most organized campaign operations. But in an interview with WBUR Saturday evening, after the day's door-knocking was over, Warren would not say whether she feels her organization is enough to propel her beyond third place.
"Every time I get to go talk to people, every time we expand the number of people who are in this fight, that’s a good thing," Warren said. "I just see this as a chance to pull more people into this fight, fighting for working families, trying to figure out why America’s middle class has been hollowed out, and how we change that."
On Tuesday, Warren’s organization, and her message, will be put to another test.
WBUR's Anthony Brooks and Wilder Fleming contributed to this report.
This segment aired on February 9, 2020.
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