Warren looks to capitalize on post debate performance momentum

Warren raised $5 million in a much-needed swell after her debate performance

LAS VEGAS -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivered a debate performance Wednesday night that kicked her campaign back into offensive gear, sparking a much-needed swell ahead of the Nevada caucuses and bringing millions of dollars into her campaign coffer.

By the end of the first hour of the debate on Wednesday, Warren’s campaign reported the best hour of fundraising in their campaign’s history. The fundraising surge continued through Thursday morning, when Warren announced that her campaign had raised $5 million since she took the stage and said they were more than doubling their prior fundraising goal ahead of the caucuses on Saturday.

“We’ve not only reached our critical goal of raising $7 million before the Nevada caucuses — we're now raising it to $12 million. I'm so grateful. Keep it up!” Warren tweeted on Thursday.

That same afternoon, Warren’s campaign announced that February was officially their strongest fundraising month ever, with donations totaling $17 million.

Warren’s newfound strategy — which was almost entirely based in attacks on her opponents on stage, and particularly former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg — kicked off a strong shift from the week before, when the campaign’s goal was to raise $7 million over the 10 days between the New Hampshire and Nevada presidential contests. After Wednesday night, Warren’s campaign hit 70% of that goal in less than 24 hours.

"I think she was effective," Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, told ABC News. "It obviously already mobilized support -- we saw her fundraising numbers from last night."

Warren's performance "reenergized" supporters "who were feeling down" after Iowa and New Hampshire and felt there was an "erasure of her in media coverage" in the last week, Dittmar said.

Her debate performance could now serve to both rev up her base and attract new supporters, she added.

The Massachusetts senator’s change of pace was all-but necessary, given her lackluster finishes in the first two presidential contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Warren has also seen a steep drop in the polls since her peak over the summer months.

While opponents like Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont advanced to 32% support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, Warren saw hardly any movement, coming in at 11% support.

More third- or fourth-place finishes in the Nevada caucuses, which are just three days away, and the South Carolina primary, which is just nine days away, could further strain Warren’s chances ahead of Super Tuesday states, where her campaign has already attempted to shift the focus.

Warren seized on the chance to shift the tides Wednesday, which also marked the first chance to go after former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a newcomer on the Democratic debate stage.

After noticeably revving up her criticism of the billionaire for his record on Stop and Frisk and allegations of profane comments made about women in the days ahead of the race, Warren hit the ground running on Wednesday night, hitting Bloomberg out of the gates by comparing him to President Donald Trump and contrasting his large fortune to her own stance against money in politics.

“I'd like to talk about who we're running against: A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse faced lesbians. And no, I'm not talking about Donald Trump, I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg,” Warren said, marking one of her biggest applause lines just about three minutes into the debate.

“Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies like red lining and stop and frisk. Look, I'll support whoever the democratic nominee is, but understand this. Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another,” Warren said.

But Warren also went after Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg for having health care plans she said were more apt for a PowerPoint or a post-it note than for a national policy on a key issue.

She attacked Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont over health care as well, criticizing him for lacking a detailed plan on how the country would transition to and pay for Medicare for All.

And former Vice President Joe Biden wasn’t spared either. After Biden made the argument that he was the only candidate on stage who had successfully beaten Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to get legislation passed. But Warren jumped in to remind Biden of 2014 comments that he’d once said he hoped McConnell would win his re-election bid.

In debates past, Warren has stayed out of the fray. For the better part of the race, she has declined to criticize candidates by name and instead pivoted to talking about her own reasons for being in the race.

Asked why Wednesday night’s performance revealed a vastly different strategy, Warren said she took “very deliberately aimed shots.”

“I was very careful about what I had to say that I thought was important,” Warren told reporters on Thursday morning at a campaign stop in North Las Vegas.

But Warren also made clear — despite the attacks against each of her other opponents on stage — her focus remains on Bloomberg.

“It’s important that America understands who that man is and why he cannot be a successful Democratic candidate for president,” Warren told reporters.

ABC News' Sasha Pezenik contributed to this report.