Never underestimate a woman on a mission. The Taliban couldn’t stop Malala Yousafzai from championing girls' education. An army of rebel soldiers couldn’t stop former slave turned military spy Harriet Tubman from freeing enslaved people behind Confederate lines. Nonbelievers couldn’t stop Joan of Arc from rising up to lead France to victory against England. And political naysayers — like me — couldn’t stop Sen. Elizabeth Warren from entering the race for president. Actually, that should have been clear to all of us. After all, it was Sen. Warren who inspired the viral phrase, “Nevertheless, she persisted.” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s sexist scolding of Warren is now a ubiquitous rallying cry emblazoned on posters, t-shirts, jewelry, and tote bags.

Sen. Warren officially announced her presidential candidacy on Feb. 9 at a rally in Lawrence. Immediately, the prognosticators characterized her chances as a snowball’s chance in hell. Maybe that’s what propelled her to hit the campaign trail with a vengeance — reclaiming her own story and willingly answering the few questions referencing the Native American heritage controversy. She’s made policy, not politics, the center of her campaign, offering up a near-daily deluge of policy proposals addressing top issues like free college, Medicaid for all, climate change and more. Ignored by pollsters and pundits for the most part, her campaign has built strength crisscrossing the country — though it must be noted that most of the women in the Democrat primary group have been brushed off, too, while their lesser-known male counterparts have inspired hours of political chatter.

But Massachusetts’ senior senator has forged ahead by staying in her own lane. Staying the course when fellow Democrat candidate Kamala Harris’ campaign announcement elicited excitement, even drawing an admiring comment from President Donald Trump. Warren has been listening to her own drummer and calling for the impeachment of the president after reading the details of the Mueller report.

All of it appears to be paying off. She’s won over potential voters from Iowa to South Carolina with her message and tenacity. It’s been exciting to watch, even as I want her to continue to represent Massachusetts. Other Bay Staters are also clearly ambivalent. That might explain why she placed second to top candidate former Vice President Joe Biden in a recent statewide poll. National polls, however, position her about even with rival Sen. Bernie Sanders and within a catch-up distance of Biden.

And now, in this week’s kickoff of the 2020 Democrat presidential debates, Elizabeth Warren will be standing on a stage where she is the one to watch. I don’t think, as some do, that she will be hurt by being in the first debate group of lesser-known competitors. I expect her to shine — because she’s mission focused.