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At N.H. Dems Convention, Warren and Party Leaders Urge Unity to Defeat Trump

Casey McDermott, NHPR
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, tried to fire up party activists at the New Hampshire Democrats' state convention this weekend.

By the end of the day at the New Hampshire Democrats’ state convention, it was hard to miss the message that party leaders were trying to pitch to their grassroots activists, heading into the general election this fall.

“We aren’t going to change a broken system in Washington if we don’t work together," said Gov. Maggie Hassan, who's running for U.S. Senate.

“We are like a great choir," said Carol Shea-Porter, who's running again for her old seat in New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District. "We all have individual parts. And sometimes we’re a little discordant. We don't sound like we’re in tune — but we really are."

And then there was this call to action, from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

“We need all of us working together — Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Maggie Hassan, President Obama, Annie and Carol, you and me — to defeat Donald Trump and elect Hillary Clinton the next president of the United States," she said, to cheers.

But of anyone, it was Elizabeth Warren herself who really hammered home those last two points. The Massachusetts senator spent most of her 20-minute keynote speech at the convention railing against the presumptive Republican nominee — calling him out for his management of Trump University, his comments about women and minorities, and more.

“Every day, it becomes clearer: He is a thin skinned racist bully," Warren told the crowd. "And every day it becomes clearer: He will never be president of the United States.”

Warren, who recently endorsed Hillary Clinton, didn’t mention Bernie Sanders at all by name during her speech. But she did argue that everyone in the room should be able to unify around the common cause of preventing Trump from being president — no matter who they voted for during the primary.

"Look, we can whine about Donald Trump, we can whimper about Donald Trump, or we can fight back," Warren said. "Me? I’m fighting back. I'm fighting back. You bet. And Hillary Clinton is fighting back. Democrats are fighting back. And here’s the best part: America is fighting back."

To plenty of top New Hampshire Democrats, Warren — with her near-celebrity status among progressives, her appeals for party unity and her long list of one-liners — seemed like just the messenger the party needs right now.

“Well, she’s a great attack dog, isn’t she?” said State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, from Portsmouth, who recently became the only New Hampshire superdelegate to endorse Bernie Sanders.

Hampton Rep. Renny Cushing, another Sanders backer, was similarly inspired by the senator's critiques of Trump, in particular.

“It’s funny: I was sitting there watching her speech, and I remembered a year ago an evening where I went to a party for Bernie Sanders when he was thinking about running for president and right after that went to a 'Draft Warren' party," Cushing said. "At the time, we were most concerned about having a progressive candidate to articulate the concerns of people who have a vision that's inclusive. It was great to see, kind of full circle, to see her there today."

But Warren’s presence only went so far to fire up Sanders supporters at the convention, some of whom were still reeling from her decision to endorse Clinton earlier this month. 

“I thought she was a Bernie supporter, and it bothered me so much that she came out for Hillary," said Linda Rodd, of Jefferson. 

“That is one of the biggest disappointments that I had, because I had great respect for Elizabeth Warren and I just am very disappointed with what she did," said Vicki Abbot, who was among a few dozen Sanders supporters camped outside the convention in protest of the nominating process.

Emily Jacobs, the chair of the Coos County Democrats, also assumed Warren would have aligned more closely with Sanders.

“I guess what was most disappointing was the timing of it," Jacobs said, of the Clinton endorsement. "We had Obama, we had Biden and we had Warren, on the same day.”

Jacobs is also going to be a Sanders delegate to the national convention. On Saturday, she showed up to the state convention toting campaign signs, wearing a T-shirt that read: "Don’t blame me, I voted for Bernie."

But if her preferred candidate doesn’t end up getting the nomination?

“We’re all Democrats. So regardless of how I personally feel, it is right of us to support the Democratic candidate," Jacobs said. "It is just how it has to go.”

As the Democratic chair, Jacobs said, she needs to support the party’s choice.

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