On Wednesday, May was keen to show she was in charge of the Brexit talks.
May used a punchy speech to lay down a challenge to her detractors, a day after her rival Boris Johnson trashed her Brexit plan and challenged her authority with a crowd-pleasing speech of his own. It will be a system that looks across the globe and attracts the people with the skills we need, she said. "But if we stick together and hold our nerve I know we can get a deal that delivers for Britain".
She also tried to return to the message she gave when she was appointed prime minister in 2016, promising to help those who feel "left behind" and pledging to end her government's austerity push after almost a decade of spending cuts. May launched a lengthy attack on Labour and promised that her party would end years of austerity with more spending on health care and housing.
In her crucial conference speech, the PM will make a direct appeal to mainstream Labour voters disillusioned by Jeremy Corbyn's left-wing agenda to switch to the "decent, moderate, patriotic" Tories.
But the European Union is demanding new proposals from Britain before it signs a deal - and many Conservatives are in no mood to compromise.
And the animus that motivated Johnson-supporting MP James Duddridge to try to trip up the speech by announcing his submission of a letter to the 1922 calling for a leadership contest remains.
Sir Graham is required to call a no-confidence vote in Mrs May if he receives 48 letters from MPs.
Mrs May said she was lifting the cap on councils borrowing to fund new developments, in a move which aides said could lead to additional investment of an estimated £1 billion in as many as 10,000 new homes a year.
Wednesday's speech was considerably smoother.
Mrs May was joined on stage by Philip as activists gave her a standing ovation after her 64-minute speech.
A day before May was due to rally Tory troops with a keynote speech at the governing party's annual conference, the popular but divisive Johnson stole the prime minister's thunder with an address laying out his own vision of Brexit and domestic politics.
"Because the plan the European Union has put forward is one that effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the customs union and ensures that effectively there is a customs border down the Irish sea".
"It is no surprise that we have had a range of different views expressed this week", May said. For many Conservatives, whose party is dwindling in numbers and divided over Brexit, he was a tonic.
At home it won't be any easier. She told party members her plan was in the national interest, and she rejected the Canada option, arguing it would create a hard border in Ireland and violate the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended decades of sectarian violence.
She did not use the word "Chequers" - the name of her country residence where the plan was agreed by Cabinet in July - but aides insisted that this was not meant to signal any shift away from her blueprint.
"So this is our proposal".