South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) is putting $2 million behind his first campaign ad in South Carolina as he seeks to make inroads with the black voters who make up about two-thirds of the Democratic primary electorate in the key early-voting state.
The ad, which will be released statewide on Tuesday, is called “Welcomed Me” and features moments from Buttigieg’s speech at the Liberty and Justice Dinner earlier this month and footage of the candidate meeting with and listening to a cross-section of racially diverse voters.
“When I say we’ve got to unify the American people, it doesn’t mean pretending that we’re all the same,” Buttigieg says in the ad. “It means unifying around issues from wages and family leave to gun violence and immigration. The hope of an American experience defined not by exclusion but by belonging.”
Buttigieg has surged to the front in recent polls of Iowa and New Hampshire, where a strong majority of caucus and primary voters are white.
But he has struggled to make inroads among black voters and is polling in the single digits in South Carolina, the fourth state to vote.
Polls find former Vice President Joe Biden with a strong lead in South Carolina, at 35.3 percent in the RealClearPolitics average, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), at 16.3 percent, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), at 12.8 percent. Buttigieg is in fourth place, at 6.5 percent.
Buttigieg has faced criticism for his handling of racially charged incidents within the police department in South Bend and for policies that some say have been harmful to racial minorities in the city.
Buttigieg has recently sought to hone his message in an effort to reach African Americans by talking about how he has faced bigotry as a gay man.
Over the weekend, Buttigieg traveled to North Carolina to meet with the Rev. William Barber II, the influential pastor and former state NAACP president who is leading a campaign against poverty.
The Buttigieg campaign says it is beginning to bolster its campaign presence in South Carolina, opening four offices across the state and growing its campaign to 40 staffers.