Feb 8, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden targets Buttigieg on race

In this image, Biden and Buttigieg stand next to each other on the debate stage, with Sanders standing nearby.
Biden, Buttigieg and Sanders debate in Sept. 2019 in Houston, Texas. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden released an attack ad on former Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg Saturday that disparaged Buttigieg for firing South Bend’s first black police chief, which Buttigieg claims he was pressured by federal prosecutors to do.

Driving the news: Democratic candidates held an extensive discussion on race in New Hampshire's debate on Friday. Buttigieg said he "took a lot of heat for discussing systemic racism" with his police department, and Biden said politicians should "stop taking the black community for granted."

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Alexi McCammond: Biden is unrestrained now that his campaign is flailing. He's spent the majority of the primary focused on Trump, but that's blown up after Buttigieg's Iowa win and expected upswing in New Hampshire.

  • Biden's only primary hope is to do well in Nevada and South Carolina because he's enjoyed strong support from black voters nationally.
  • Buttigieg has struggled to gain traction with black and brown voters, which could hurt his performance in those states. But, winning begets more winning, and coming out on top in Iowa will give him momentum heading into Super Tuesday.

What they're saying: "The Vice President’s decision to run this ad speaks more to where he currently stands in this race than it does about Pete’s perspective as a mayor and veteran," Buttigieg's national press secretary said in a statement on Saturday.

  • “Bringing it up now is better than later — because it’s the same thing Trump would bring up,” Jim Blanchard, a former Michigan governor and a Biden surrogate, told Axios. He added that Trump would raise it in a “worse” way.

Flashback: Buttigieg said he welcomes "the challenge" of attracting black voters at the 5th Democratic debate and said he could relate to the fight for civil rights through his experience as a gay man.

  • Biden was under fire at the first debate for his comments about working with segregationist senators and opposing federally mandated busing that integrated schools in the 1970s.

The bottom line: Biden maintains a significant polling lead among black voters overall, compared to other candidates.

Go deeper: 2020 Democrats are ready to talk about racial inequality

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