Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg says his low polling numbers among African American voters have also been experienced by Black candidates themselves when addressing why he doesn’t seem to be connecting with the Black electorate.
“We’re also engaging voters who are rightly skeptical, who have felt taken for granted, not only kicked around by the Republican Party, but taken for granted by mine,” Buttigieg said at a campaign event on Monday, reports the Washington Examiner. “It is certainly more challenging when you’ve been here a matter of months in presidential politics instead of decades. And you will see, even African American candidates struggle to get out of single digits in the South.”
Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker have both dropped out of the presidential race, recently. Each candidate lost support to former vice president Joe Biden, who is a Democratic frontrunner has polled highly with African Americans. Black support for Harris went as low as 1 percent, according to a Quinnipiac poll last August. Booker was down to 4 percent among Blacks, last July according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll this month. In that poll, Biden enjoys 48 percent support from Black voters and Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., was at 2 percent.
Buttigieg, plagued by controversy over a police shooting last June, has been struggling to win the trust of Black voters, which is concerning given that the all-important Democratic primary season is around the corner. He stepped away from the campaign trail and faced angry residents at an emotional town hall in South Bend, a city of about 100,000 residents, a quarter of whom are Black. He acknowledged that his administration had failed to recruit more minority police officers and utilize police body cameras.
He also recently addressed the concerns of people of color among his staff who felt they were not being listened to, disrespected and other issues of diversity.
“We’re proud of the staffers who stood up and made their voices heard to help our campaign improve and be more inclusive,” Buttigieg said, according to The New York Times. “We realize that we can always do better and these honest discussions are how we make progress, and we will continue to provide our staff the safe space to have them.”
The coming South Carolina primary on Feb. 29 will prove crucial to Democratic candidates. The electorate there could be as much as 60 percent black, the Examiner says. But he must first take on the Iowa Democratic caucuses, which is where then-Sen. Barack Obama staged a surprise win in 2008 and created the momentum that eventually led to him winning the White House.