As Democratic presidential candidates prepare to take the debate stage tonight just one week before Thanksgiving, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has much to be thankful for.

Two recent polls in key primary/caucus states show him surging ahead of Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders:

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Three days after a poll in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa showed Pete Buttigieg with a clear advantage over his rival Democrats for the presidential nomination, a new survey in the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House also indicates the South Bend, Ind., mayor with a large lead over the other top-tier contenders.

According to a Saint Anselm College Survey Center poll released Tuesday, Buttigieg grabbed the support of 25 percent of likely Democratic presidential primary voters in New Hampshire. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of neighboring Massachusetts were tied for second – with each at 15 percent.


A Des Moines Register-CNN-Mediacom poll released this past Saturday indicated Buttigieg at 25 percent among likely Iowa Democratic presidential caucus-goers, with Warren at 16 percent, and Biden and Sanders at 15 percent. A Monmouth University survey also conducted earlier this month showed Buttigieg with a single-digit advantage over his top rivals in the Hawkeye State.

By contrast, a Suffolk University/USA Today poll from a month ago had him at 13% in Iowa. So the Petementum is not just a fluke.

But even with these state polling surges, other problems still exist for the Buttigieg campaign. Big ones.

In crucial primary states like South Carolina, Buttigieg is in the tank with black voters. For example, a Winthrop University poll last month out of South Carolina showed Buttigieg at zero percent support with black voters. A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this week indicates that his support among black voters in the state is at “less than one percent.”

So what’s the problem? While some political analysts have suggested the big issue is Buttigieg’s sexuality, which older, religious black voters might have a problem with, others say it’s more about his experience and his positions on the issues:

According to a Public Religion Research Institute poll last month, priorities among religious black voters include health care, crime reduction, presidential election fairness, race relations and jobs — and in several of those areas, experts and undecided South Carolina voters say they see weaknesses in Buttigieg’s positions.

“The true Pete Buttigieg test, the one he’s unquestionably failing,” [Emory University political scientist Andra] Gillespie said, “has to do with the résumé and the issues.”

Related to that is how he’s handled race, crime, and law enforcement issues as South Bend’s mayor:

Buttigieg must contend with questions about his record on race, police accountability and crime reduction in South Bend, which came to the forefront after police there shot and killed a black man in June. The city’s violent crime rate is double the average of comparably sized cities. And the number of shooting victims in the city has nearly doubled since 2018. Buttigieg was also criticized for firing the city’s first black police chief, who viewed himself as working to expose and remove racist white officers, in 2012, the year Buttigieg took office. Buttigieg is widely perceived as not having handled the situation well.

The South Carolina Democratic primary is February 29th, which still leaves Buttigieg three months to make inroads with the black community. But he’ll find that harder to do in light of recent controversies involving his campaign in the Palmetto State:

Prominent African Americans in South Carolina are accusing his campaign of embellishing black support for the Douglass Plan.

Their criticism stems from an open letter published Nov. 15 in the HBCU Times, purportedly written by 400 South Carolinian supporters of the Douglass Plan, including several elected officials, pastors, business owners and students.

“Together, we endorse his Douglass Plan for Black America, the most comprehensive roadmap for tackling systemic racism offered by a 2020 presidential candidate,” the letter states.

The trouble started soon after publication. Several elected leaders denied they had endorsed the plan, according to The Intercept, a digital news publication. A review by the publication showed many of the 400 supporters were white and some lived out of state. The Intercept also reported a woman in a photo used to promote the platform lives in Kenya, and had never heard of the plan.

If you’re a candidate like Joe Biden, who has maintained strong support with black voters, you can recover relatively quickly from mistakes like that and with minimal damage. Not so much for someone like Buttigieg, who is struggling with black voters.

To add to all this, Mayor Pete isn’t doing much better with Hispanic voters:

In addition to the polls of African Americans, [political scientist Larry] Sabato referenced a survey in California where the mayor had little support among Latinos.

“He doesn’t just have a black problem,” Sabato said. “He has a brown problem.”

Look for the knives to be aimed at Buttigieg at tonight’s debate, especially from candidates like Sen. Kamala Harris, who is desperate to get her failing campaign back on track.

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —


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