The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is hoping his success in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary will prove his electability among minority voters.
“Before anybody cares what’s in your plans, they want to know if you’re a serious contender,” Buttigieg said in an interview with PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff. “I think up until we had the results we did here in Iowa and New Hampshire, it was difficult for us to prove it,” to voters, he said, adding “Now, the process of proving it is underway.”
Buttigieg surpassed expectations last week by edging out Sen. Bernie Sanders for first place in the Iowa caucuses, though an official winner has not been declared. On Tuesday, Buttigieg secured second place in the New Hampshire primary; he was narrowly defeated by Sanders, who won the state in 2016 by 22 points against Hillary Clinton, and whose home state of Vermont borders New Hampshire.
Now, Buttigieg faces what could be his toughest primary challenge yet as the eight remaining Democratic candidates prepare for the next contests in Nevada and South Carolina — two states with large Latino and African American populations, respectively.
“This is an opportunity for us to demonstrate how, on everything from economic empowerment to delivering health care, to combating discrimination, reforming immigration and dismantling systemic racism, we can pull together and get big things done,” Buttigieg told PBS NewsHour.
Buttigieg also defended his mayoral record with black residents in South Bend. His actions on policing and housing in South Bend have received sharp criticism from some black activists and members of his community.
“The majority of black leaders from my community who have gotten involved in this race are supporting me,” Buttigieg said. “When you are a mayor, you don’t get to just opine on these issues or talk about what should happen. You’re on the ground trying to get things done.
More highlights from the interview:
- On the DOJ lowering its sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone: Buttigieg responded to news that four career prosecutors on Tuesday quit the federal case against President Donald Trump’s longtime friend, Roger Stone. Stone was convicted in November of obstructing the Russia election interference probe. After prosecutors recommended a sentencing of seven to nine years in prison for Stone, the Department of Justice intervened, pushing for a shorter sentence. The move by the DOJ came shortly after Trump weighed in on Twitter saying the recommendation was unfair. Trump has said he was not in communication with the DOJ about the case. Buttigieg said the DOJ’s actions are “very serious.” “What kind of country is this if somebody can escape justice because the president or presidential appointee puts the squeeze internally on the process of delivering justice?” Buttigieg said. “This is not America. This is no way to run things.”
- On distinguishing himself from other 2020 Democratic candidates: Buttigieg entered the 2020 presidential race in one of the party’s most crowded primary fields in history. Buttigieg said his goal is to be inclusive of all voters, no matter their political leanings. “I think the way that we have advanced to the front of that group is by offering a vision that’s not just clear in terms of policy, but establishing the sense of belonging in our campaign that reflects the belonging we want to build in the country as a whole,” Buttigieg said. “This is not the time for a politics of ‘my way or the highway.’ If your only choices are between a revolution and the status quo, that’s a vision that leaves most Americans out.”
- On criticism of his campaign donations: Buttigieg has been criticized for holding fundraisers with wealthy donors. Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have drawn a contrast between Buttigieg’s campaign funding and their own by touting their focus on small donors. Buttigieg noted the importance of building a base that can compete with Trump’s wealth. “I’m not defining my campaign by whose help we reject or who we turn away,” Buttigieg said. “In order to compete against a president and his allies who have raised astonishing sums of money in order to keep their grip on power, we need to go into this fight with everything that we’ve got.”