MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — Elizabeth Warren had lost, badly, in a state next door to her own. She ran up onto the stage without her usual introduction and sped through a speech from a podium, and not long after the polls had closed, it was over.
Except for the selfie line, the fixture of Warren’s yearlong campaign. It went on and on, snaking around the enormous room, and so for more than an hour in the wake of the gut-punch that was her apparent fourth-place finish in New Hampshire, Warren smiled and embraced supporters and pumped her fist and said things like “Fantastic!”
After a disappointing third place in the muddled field of the Iowa caucuses last week, Warren had been in a difficult place, facing questions about her campaign’s path forward as Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg rode the high of victory into New Hampshire.
But she had done little to shift her message, or her strategy, in the wake of her loss in Iowa. She continued to give a stump speech that had hardly changed from the early days of her campaign: her own history, and then an indictment of the “corruption, pure and simple” that made the government work on behalf of the wealthy.
And she stuck to the same speech in the New Hampshire debate Friday night, while Amy Klobuchar, who had come in fifth in Iowa, flung skillful attacks at rivals on both sides. Klobuchar surged to a third-place finish in New Hampshire, doubling Warren’s vote total.
On Sunday, after an event in Concord, reporters grilled Warren repeatedly about her static strategy in the state.
“You did a pretty standard stump speech — is that enough going into the final stretch?”
“Other candidates who didn’t perform well in the caucuses are mixing up their strategy and doing things differently here. You’re not. Why is that?”
“What are you doing to build enthusiasm?”
On Tuesday night, staring down the results in New Hampshire, Warren did something different.
For the first time, she gave a speech focused not on tackling corruption or big ideas, not on her personal biography, but on the Democratic Party, and on the pitch for herself as a candidate who can unite Democrats’ warring factions.
It was something her campaign had begun to talk about in the last weeks of Iowa, and that she spoke about often to press. But “unity” had hardly made it into Warren’s own words to her supporters. And it had always been second to her plans.
“The thing we have to ask as Democrats is whether there will be a broad, bitter rehash of the same old divides in our party, or whether we can find another way,” she told the crowd in Manchester. She condemned the “divide between factions” — attack ads, boos for other candidates.
“These harsh tactics might work if you are willing to burn down the rest of the party in order to be elected,” she said. “And it might work if you think only you have all the answers and only you are the solution to all of our problems. But if we’re going to beat Donald Trump in November, we’re going to need huge turnout within our party, and to get that turnout, we will need a nominee that the broadest coalition of our party feels like they can get behind. We cannot afford to fall into factions. We can’t afford to squander our collective power. We win when we come together.”
Warren, her campaign believes, is the candidate who can do that. They took another unprecedented step Tuesday: releasing a campaign memo that laid bare her opponents’ weaknesses, explicitly criticizing her Democratic rivals and putting forward a case for Warren’s ability to push past them despite poor showings in early states, racking up delegates even as she failed to win states.
Hours later, after failing to win any delegates in New Hampshire, Warren’s message of party unity seemed at odds with the memo, which took swipes at everyone from Sanders to Beto O’Rourke, who dropped out of the race in November.
In some ways, it also seemed at odds with Warren’s core identity, built on fiery attacks she often wielded against her own party as well as big banks and corporate executives. As the senator next door to New Hampshire, she had frequently sparred with the Obama administration over consumer issues — and won praise and support for her fights.
The candidate who stood in front of the crowd in New Hampshire Tuesday was noticeably different than in many of her rallies. She read her speech from a podium, her hands often static, her voice rarely rising.
The selfie line, though — that looked the same.
There were supporters in liberty green, Warren’s color, and supporters wearing shirts decorated with two pennies, for Warren’s two-cent wealth tax.
After her photo was snapped, one adult asked Warren to do the “pinky promise” that she usually reserved for young girls. A volunteer who had worked in New Hampshire for months before being diagnosed with cancer told Warren she had made it through chemotherapy — but her insurance company had denied her the drug that kept her from debilitating nausea.
“Oh yeah, we're changing that,” she said Warren had told her.
There were Warren staffers, expertly handing off coats and bags and iPhones as the line progressed. Bailey, Warren’s dog, lay lazily on the ground, waiting to be scratched. The screen that had once been broadcasting primary results was off — it had been dark since the polls closed.