Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the new bullseye of the 2020 Democratic field and it’s because he’s doing well in Iowa. Buttigieg has been surging in Iowa polls since August, up more than 15 points in most major polls over that stretch. Currently, he outpaces his second closest competitor in Sen. Elizabeth Warren by 9 points in the latest Des Moines Register/CNN poll.
But not everyone is buying the success across the board. In fact, polls show the South Bend, Indiana mayor is doing poorly resonating with black Democratic voters. In South Carolina, Buttigieg is polling at zero percent with this group, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll.
Yahoo News spoke to voters in Atlanta, ahead of last week’s Democratic debate and many agreed that Buttigieg’s sexuality was a big reason why black voters were not on board. “His personal life is overshadowing what he’s talking about policy wise,” said one voter. “People can’t see past his sexuality.”
Following the debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ top surrogate, former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, told Yahoo News that there’s “obviously” a disconnect among Buttigieg and black voters. Adversely, Tuner said Sanders has been putting in the work in African-American communities for decades and travels to South Carolina often to show that he is committed to their issues. “Decade after decade he has proven himself, where there is injustice he is stepping up. … And he’s gone to South Carolina over 10 times because he wants the African-American community to know he wants to earn their vote.”
Other Democratic candidates also realize Buttigieg’s momentum and they’re doing everything they can to slow it down. In last week’s debate, the South Bend, Indiana mayor was called out seven times by his opponents, the most of any other candidate. During the debate, Sen. Kamala Harris laughed when she was asked about Buttigieg’s prediction that the Democratic primary is a two-person race between him and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Harris called his comments "naive."
An unlikely voice in Martin Luther King III sees promise in Buttigieg and what he can bring to the table. He doesn’t see his sexuality an issue. “I think it’s a matter of people getting to know him and I think the more that people get to know and hear and see, I think his numbers grow,” King III said. “And I think it’s only upside for him. I don’t see a down side.”
In an effort to show his seriousness to address concerns within the Black community, Buttigieg released the Frederick Douglass Plan, which he calls “A Comprehensive Investment in the Empowerment of Black America.” The plan lays out how Buttigieg would seek to take bold steps toward fulfilling long-broken promises of true equity through health care, criminal justice reform and more. It’s a start. But for many critics, Buttigieg presents more questions than answers.
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