Stacey Abrams, fresh off delivering the Democrats' response to the US President's State of the Union address, announced more stops on her "thank you" tour to keep her supporters across the state of Georgia motivated while she decides her next political move.
Democratic leaders and progressive activists heaped praised on Abrams, the former Democratic nominee for Georgia governor, for painting clear distinctions between the policies and tone of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers and those of her party, as both sides prepare for next year's election.
"Last night, @StaceyAbrams showed President Trump what real leadership looked like," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter. "She was compelling, warm and caring about people and their plights, but filled with the hope and promise of the American dream. She knocked it out of the park."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted that Abrams "did a masterful job. A perfect counter-weight to @realDonaldTrump's out-of-touch speech."
Abrams had no public comment today, but advisers say that she was happy her speech was well received and that she felt she had accomplished her goal of highlighting proposals for better jobs, education and immigration.
Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, was less impressed. In her tweet, she repeated an erroneous conservative talking point that Abrams "thinks illegal immigrants should vote" and added: "Abrams lost her race for a reason. Voters don't support her extreme positions."
Abrams, 45, is being courted by national party leaders and supporters in her home state to challenge Republican Senator David Perdue, who will be seeking his second term next year. As Democrats seek to elevate fresh faces, women and minorities, Abrams is a woman of colour who has never held federal office and does not hold an elected position.
Last year, she became the first black woman to win a major-party nomination for governor. Her campaign attracted support from a broad coalition of people of colour and young voters, and she received more votes than any Democrat who has ever run statewide in Georgia. The state has leaned conservative but is changing demographically and becoming more competitive.
In the end, she was edged out by less than 1.5 percentage points by Republican Brian Kemp, the former secretary of state who was endorsed by Trump, after a campaign marred by voting irregularities and allegations of voter suppression.
Abrams has never conceded to Kemp, and immediately after the election she launched a new political group called Fair Fight Action to continue to push for changes in the state's election system. She addressed the issue of voting rights in her response yesterday, taking aim at a comment by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that was critical of a proposal by Democrats to overhaul the nation's voting system.
Abrams launched her thank-you tour last month at an event that drew more than 200 supporters. She told them that she definitely plans to run for office again but hadn't decided for what. Schumer and other national Democrats have lobbied her to run for Senate, which could not only help the party take the upper chamber but could also turn out voters to help the Democratic presidential nominee.
Today, Trump weighed in on a potential Senate run by Abrams, telling reporters from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other regional newspapers that it would be a "mistake" for Abrams to run against Perdue.
"I think it's a mistake for her to run against him because I don't think she can win," Trump said, calling Perdue "an incredible senator" who "will be very hard to beat."
Trump also said he'd "love" for Abrams to run for president. "To run for president you're supposed to have won, unless you're a non-politician like me," he said.
Some Georgians think that Abrams's heart is in Georgia and that she might wait for a rematch with Kemp in 2022. Abrams has said she will make up her mind by the end of March.
Abrams is scheduled to visit Savannah at the weekend and Gwinnett County, an increasingly reliably Democratic base of voters in suburban Atlanta, on Tuesday. A visit to Atlanta, where Abrams lives and represented in the state legislature for 10 years before stepping down to run for governor, is planned for mid-March.