CHARLESTON, S.C. — Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is vowing to “broaden” the diversity of his coalition ahead of the South Carolina primary on Saturday, but the former mayor from South Bend, Indiana, so far faces a lack of support among black voters in the state.
“It’s so important for us to broaden that base in order to win. And in order to deserve to win,” Buttigieg told the PBS NewsHour in an interview.
Buttigieg performed well in the first primary contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, two states that are overwhelmingly white. But the candidate has been unable to increase his support among voters of color, especially African-Americans. Polls show support for Buttigieg among South Carolina’s black voters is barely above 1 percent.
Buttigieg’s campaign event in a majority-black neighborhood in North Charleston on Monday night displayed the lack of enthusiasm for him among black voters in the state. Attendees of the event, billed as a “community conversation,” were overwhelmingly white.
“Black voters in particular have felt taken for granted by politics as usual over and over again,” Buttigieg told NewsHour when asked about his lagging support among black voters. “My administration will be one that lifts up those voices who have been excluded again and again and again.”
Buttigieg, who’s recently stepped up his criticism of Democratic front-runner Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, also said he looked forward to offering further contrast between himself and Sanders at Tuesday night’s debate in Charleston.
“I think the most important thing is to present a clear alternative to Sen. Sanders’ approach, a vision that meets those big progressive goals that we share,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg also suggested the race in South Carolina is not a foregone conclusion.
After the South Carolina primary, a slew of diverse states like North Carolina and Texas — where Sanders holds a strong foothold — will hold their contests on Super Tuesday.