MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Elizabeth Warren came here in force.
Democrats at Southern New Hampshire University Arena erupted as she took the stage, supporters slamming thunder-sticks that read "Win with Warren" and delaying her speech with two minutes of cheering. They chanted "two cents" as the Massachusetts senator detailed her 2% "wealth tax" on fortunes larger than $50 million, and a battalion of backers roamed the concourses in mint green Warren T-shirts, easily outnumbering any rivals.
As 19 Democratic presidential candidates pitched themselves to thousands of activists the scene Saturday illustrated why many in the party believe Warren has built more new energy than anyone else, vaulting her into the top tier with former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont.
With another presidential debate Thursday on ABC, polling and interviews show that Warren has emerged not only as a liberal alternative to Sanders, but increasingly as a potential threat to the front runner, Joe Biden -- especially for Democrats looking for a more dynamic and fresher leader.
"She's one of the few candidates in a long time that I feel I can trust," said Megan Peterson, a Walpole, Mass., resident who made the trip to Manchester to support Warren.
"She has really kicked ass and run an outstanding campaign," said Mike Lux, a Democratic strategist who worked for Joe Biden's 1988 campaign. "There's plenty of impressive candidates who've done some interesting things, but the one who seems to have staying power in terms of the challenges to Biden, it seems like its been Elizabeth."
If Biden represents the party's pragmatic side and Sanders its liberal restiveness, Warren's supporters in New Hampshire argued she combines both.
"She may be progressive but she's got a plan, and I like that's she's got a plan and she can tell you how you're going to get there," Marcia Hayward, 69, said after attending a Biden event in Laconia, N.H. She was "torn" between Warren and the former vice president.
The two will appear on stage together for the first time in Thursday's debate, setting up one of the most anticipated contrasts of the early campaign.
While Biden and Sanders began the race with name recognition and national followings, and remain at or near the top of the polls, each have dipped from earlier highs. Warren, meanwhile, started with a stumble over her claims of Native American heritage, but has been the only candidate to steadily rise, moving into a tight race with Sanders for second place and drawing growing crowds.