LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga.—In a toasty gymnasium in metro Atlanta, one of the 2020 Democratic field's most progressive candidates made a familiar but bold prediction on Saturday.
"Far be it from me to argue with somebody from Georgia," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told a skeptical high-schooler in Gwinnett County, "but I don't think you guys are going to be so reliably red."
No Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton in 1992 has carried the Peach State, but its increasing minority population and Stacey Abrams's (D.) close 2018 gubernatorial loss has them optimistic their candidate could carry it against President Donald Trump 2020. Or at least make Republicans sweat.
The question is if Democratic primary voters care about electability versus ideological purity, or if they dismiss that as a false choice. Warren is banking on her agenda having wide appeal.
"Georgia is right at the apex of change in this country, and we've got to be out here all across America, making our case for what we as Democrats will fight for if we get the chance," Warren told reporters, later adding, "I'm convinced Georgia can become blue. We might argue Georgia's already blue."
After a morning event in Greenville, S.C., Warren took her case to Georgia's second-biggest county, which has recently moved into the Democratic column after years of GOP domination. Before a crowd of 1,100, she said the first task was to turn out their voters—"everybody votes, we win"—but also to make the pitch to "all of America."
Yet the rest of the event for Warren to showcase her baldly liberal platform for "big, structural, systemic reform" didn't appear designed to appeal to conservatives.
Warren called health care "a basic human right" and outlined different paths to get to the "Medicare for all" proposal 2020 Democrats have lined up behind. She pushed her tax on the "ultra-millionaires" that some experts deem unconstitutional. She drew huge cheers when she mentioned the "Green New Deal," the radical economic and energy overhaul from Democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) Warren supports to ostensibly battle climate change.
"The intersection for all of these starts with structural change," Warren said. "It starts with making government not work for those that can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers. It's making government work for the rest of America."
In a state where she would need to get huge minority turnout to win, Warren also leaned into race in her speech.
"Why has the path gotten so rocky and so steep for so many millions of families, and why is it rockier and steeper for families of color? This is not right," she said.
"Race matters," she said later, after discussing past and present discrimination faced by African Americans. "We've got to call it out, and we've got to make real change."
She was heckled as she began her speech by a man holding a "1/2020th" sign, a derisive reference to her DNA test showing she could be as little as 1/1,024th Native American. She later reiterated to the media she apologized for identifying her race as American Indian in the past, saying she "shouldn't have done it."
Georgia Democrats are still steaming about Abrams' loss to Gov. Brian Kemp (R.) last year, which some say was outright stolen through voter suppression, particularly against African Americans. Warren told the Free Beacon they had a case, even if the numbers say otherwise.
"I think that's what the evidence seems to suggest," Warren said. "I came to Georgia for Stacey because I just think the world of her, and I think that the whole notion that she fired up people, she got them to the polls, and somehow those votes didn't get counted, I don't think that's how democracy is supposed to work."
Warren will next travel to Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday, and then on to Los Angeles, California on Monday.
Gwinnett resident Jennifer DeLoach told the Washington Free Beacon Georgia is "definitely turning purple" and praised Warren's stance on student loan debt.
"I do not get the sense that she is faking it or pandering," DeLoach said. "I think that when she speaks about working for the middle class, I think she really means that. I think she's very sincere and consistent."
Jennifer Bailey, from neighboring Hall County, was impressed by Warren's performance but said she's "not that confident" in Georgia's political transformation.
"We've got some deep-rooted good ole boys here, so it's hard to say, but I believe that progress is progress, and if we all step up and embrace it, then we'll make the change," she said.
High-school seniors Joshua Tyrell and Nyela Muheb came out to see Warren speak, and they think she could make Democratic dreams in Georgia come true.
"I remember this quote from Walt Disney, it's kind of fun to do the impossible, and that's what I think of when I hear her speak, so I definitely think she could do it," Tyrell said.
"She's very passionate," Muheb said. "I feel like Georgians will love her."
UPDATE: 11:27 P.M.: This article was updated with details about Warren being heckled at the outset of her remarks.