Pete Buttigieg says he's "got a lot more work to do to earn" trust of black voters

Buttigieg on earning the trust of black voters
Buttigieg on earning the trust of black voter... 10:00

Last Updated Dec 13, 2019 4:43 PM EST

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg says he has "a lot more work to do to earn" the trust of black voters as a newcomer on the national stage. The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, spoke about how he plans to win their votes on "CBS This Morning" Thursday.

While new polls have Buttigieg leading the field in New Hampshire and in a tight race with the top candidates in Iowa, he has polled low among black voters. The candidate said he's found that a lot of voters, particularly African Americans, sometimes feel "taken for granted by the Democratic Party."

"When you show up and you're new on the scene, as opposed to having had years or even decades in Washington, you got a lot more work to do to earn that trust," Buttigieg said. "When you talk in particular to African American women, who have been the backbone of the party in so many ways … there's a lot of skepticism of the new person showing up."

Asked how he plans to increase his support in that voter block, he said he would point to things he has done in South Bend that could be done on the national level to improve people's lives.

"For example, we've got a lot of challenges around housing right now as a country," he said. "In South Bend, I directed resources to low-income and mainly minority neighborhoods to improve the quality of life there. When we look at the national picture for African Americans, we see a wealth gap and an income gap. We need economic empowerment. At home, we worked to make sure that we reduced unemployment, reduced poverty, and had a lot of show for it."

He said that when he talks to voters, they "want to know what's in your heart."

"So the biggest thing I have to convey is how my makeup, my being, my faith teaches me my responsibility to make sure that I'm lifting up those who have so often been excluded in our society and our politics," he said.

Buttigieg also addressed his low polling among young voters. Asked if he was out of touch with his own generation, he said, "No, but it is certainly the case that often younger candidates tend to attract more support from older voters."

He said he is working to attract voters of all ages, but added, "many of the younger voters are more attracted to, for example, the Sanders campaign definitely has more young voters. 

"I was a big fan of Bernie Sanders when I was 18 years old," he said. 

Here is more of the interview with Buttigieg:

On the Trump impeachment inquiry

Buttigieg said the impeachment process is "of such importance that you can't think about it in terms of politics.

"Sometimes there's a situation so grave constitutionally that you just have to let it play out and then let the chips fall where they may politically," he said.

But he added, when he's with voters his focus is "preparing for an America after Trump."

"Because by definition, we're running not only to be the nominee capable of defeating Donald Trump but also being ready to lead the era that is coming next," he said.

On campaign contributions

Asked why he hasn't pledged not to take big-dollar donations, Buttigieg said he needs to be "ready to compete" against President Trump.

"We are getting ready for the fight of our lives. We're going up against Donald Trump and his allies, who I believe raised $125 million just in the last quarter in order to stay in power," he said. "If somebody wants to contribute to my campaign, to support us in taking on Donald Trump, then we're going to need to bring everything we've got to that fight."

Buttigieg said he has 700,000 donors so far. "I believe the average donation to my campaign is $32," he said. His campaign manager said in October that his average donation was about $40, according to The New York Times.

"Remember, every single contribution to my campaign is made public," Buttigieg added. "The person who made it, what they do for a living. And this is about making sure that we are ready to compete.

He said he makes "exactly one promise" to any donor: "I'm going to take that contribution and use it to defeat Donald Trump."

On what it takes to beat Trump

Responding to fellow candidate Mike Bloomberg, who said Mr. Trump would "eat up" the other Democratic candidates, Buttigieg shared what he thinks it will take to beat the president in 2020. 

"First of all, it would be a good idea to have somebody who's actually from the industrial Midwest, the kinds of communities that this president appealed to. Secondly, I think it might be a good idea to have somebody who's actually from the middle class," he said.

Buttigieg added, "I may be the only person on that debate stage who's not a millionaire," referring to the next Democratic debate on December 19 in Los Angeles. So far, six other candidates have qualified: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer, all of whom are worth at least $1 million, according to Forbes.

"I think it's really important right now to have somebody who is a little more in touch with the day-to-day lives and concerns of Americans," Buttigieg said.

On student debt

Buttigieg said he could not promise to forgive all student debt like some of his rival Democrats.

"This is personal for me because one of the reasons why I am literally the least wealthy candidate running for president right now is that I'm married to a teacher. As a household, we've got six-figure student debt right now. So I get it," he said. "But that doesn't mean I can just say we're going to make it all go away and it's all free now."

Instead, he would make public college free for most Americans.

"What I'm proposing is that we make college tuition free, public college, for the first 80% of Americans. If you're between that 80% and 90%, [with income] over $100,000, it will be a sliding scale. If you're fortunate enough to be in that top 10%, I still wish you well, but I think you ought to pay your own tuition. And that's just a difference I have with some of the other candidates who think that even the child of a billionaire should have their college tuition debt paid — or their college tuition paid completely by taxpayers."

On a VP candidate

The South Bend mayor said the No. 1 qualification for a vice president is "somebody who would have to take over the country."

"It's the one decision you make as a candidate that's really a presidential decision because the whole country has to live with it," he said.

Buttigieg added that with the VP and Cabinet roles, he believes balance and diversity are important.

"It's one of the reasons I've committed to having a Cabinet that's at least 50% women. Not only because it's the right thing to do, but because we'll make better decisions, and I think that balance is crucial whenever you're building out a team," he said. 

Editor's note: We have updated the video accompanying this story to replace an incorrect graphic in the original.