As she talked, a protester occasionally yelled out slogans — "DNC cheated!" and later "Hillary is oligarchy." When some Clinton staffers moved to ask the protester to leave, she and three companions — all young and wearing tokens of support for Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein — yelled "Jill Not Hill!" as cameras followed their exit.
Warren paused. "I actually think it is very important to talk about what's happening in this race," she said. "I know that presidential races can get intense. I know that people can sometimes say things they won't mean. But Donald Trump has repeatedly invited his followers to commit a terrible act of violence on his opponents."
"Yes!" said voters in the audience.
"He has invited them to kill another human being more than once," Warren said.
"What kind of a man does that? What kind of a man tries to hurt someone else, or get someone else to hurt someone else? I'll tell you: It's a nasty little bully who can't win a fair fight."
For the first time, there were hoots and ovations, and Warren was rolling. "Let's talk about it," she said. "Donald Trump has more support from the Aryan Nation and the Ku Klux Klan than he does from the leadership of the Republican Party. For years, Donald Trump led the charge on the birther movement. Only when his handlers tied him down and made him did he finally admit that it wasn't true. What kind of man does that? A man with a dark and ugly soul."
The outburst, and Warren's quick pivot, were indicative of the Democrats' scramble for a potent message to young voters. A summer ad blitz in Ohio and other swing states was full of Trump's "greatest hits," portraying him as a reckless and insulting boor who could not lead the country. A new ad, in heavy rotation, portrays veterans watching television with quietly suppressed anger as Trump jokes about Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) not being a war hero ("because he was captured).
But the large, persistent poll numbers for third-party candidates reflect a Democratic dilemma: Many voters who dislike Clinton (albeit less than they dislike Trump) wonder whether there's anything to her campaign but Trump attacks. Warren wonkishly tried to fill that gap, telling voters here in Cleveland over the weekend that "when CEOs break the law, they ought to go to jail like anybody else" and rattling off Democratic positions shared by Clinton and the party's Senate candidate from Ohio, Ted Strickland.
"Republicans support trade deals that leave workers in the dirt; we believe no on TPP," Warren said, referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. "Republicans blocked the minimum wage increase; Trump wants to repeal the federal minimum wage."
After the rally, some of the audience members voiced concern that the Democrats' agenda was lost in the media fog. But the most compelling worry, at every moment, was that voters would blow off the election and let Trump win.
"I still hear people say, 'Oh, he's such a clown, there's no way he can win,'" said Ellen Robinson, 22.
Robinson's mother, Carol, confessed that she'd also written off Trump, and she recalled a conversation with relatives visiting from Germany.
"They said, you don't know, he's a dangerous man," she said. "The reason why they saw the danger is that from a very young age, they're taught their history, they're taught about the rise of Nazism. They recognized this for what this is very early on."
"The people who voted for him are so connected to the people who voted Hitler into power," Ellen Robinson said.