RALEIGH, N.C. — Buttigieg’s message to a vocal North Carolina crowd Saturday was clear: Ignore South Carolina. We are looking ahead to Super Tuesday.
“I am proud of the votes we earned,” Buttigieg said. “And I am determined to earn every vote on the road ahead.”
Buttigieg read off teleprompters, which he has done on other primary nights. But unlike those nights, when he spun results his way, Buttigieg hardly referenced what — at the time of his remarks — was shaping up to be his fourth-place finish in South Carolina. Buttigieg, who had won delegates in each of the first three states to vote, looked certain to go without them Saturday. He congratulated his competitors. And he talked about the “American majority” to which he always refers, using that majority to suggest he is not planning to leave this race soon.
“This is the majority we will seek to energize into Super Tuesday and beyond, welcoming new allies as we go,” Buttigieg said. His location, too, spoke to the campaign’s eagerness to move past its worst showing of the campaign and on to Super Tuesday. After a few quick stops near Columbia on Saturday morning, Buttigieg hurried to Nashville, where he addressed a crowd of 3,000 in another Super Tuesday state. He then headed back to Raleigh for some more television interviews before his rally.
Former Obama assistant and Duke basketball star Reggie Love introduced Buttigieg and was booed when he gave a shout out to his fellow Blue Devils. In true political fashion, however, Love compromised: He nodded to the Tar Heels and local North Carolina State Wolfpack, too. The crowd cheered him for that, willing to forget old rivalries for some momentary unity.
Love’s speech was slower and less upbeat than most introductions, and it funneled to a fundraising plea. The Buttigieg campaign has been asking supporters to help raise $13 million by Super Tuesday. As of an afternoon update sent by the campaign, it had raised 70 percent of that.
What followed Love was one of the loudest roars from a crowd Buttigieg has received since his final stop in Iowa, as an expectant audience welcomed a man who hadn’t stopped in their state in 2020. Early in his remarks, he thanked black voters in South Carolina for “showing us that famous southern hospitality over last year — welcoming us into their homes and churches and neighborhoods and businesses.”
Then Buttigieg launched into an elevated version of his stump speech, talking about the new challenges the next president will address — including “pandemics crossing borders” — and the need for a new approach. “We can’t go on with a politics that has us at each other’s throats instead of having each other’s backs,” Buttigieg said. “We can’t go on with a politics that defines us by who we voted for in the past instead of what we can achieve together in the future.”
Buttigieg also spoke of his time in the military in a new way, explaining that period of his life as one in which he “came to terms with the limits of certainty in this life.” He said his service was also when he “faced the fact that just because I wasn’t asked didn’t mean I shouldn’t tell.” Buttigieg came out after he served.
When Buttigieg wrapped up his remarks, he thanked the crowd. His walk-off song, “Around the Bend,” played. Then Buttigieg picked up a mic and said he was going to take questions because everyone had “waited so patiently” for him. He answered a few, then hurried off to catch his charter flight to Georgia. He’ll have breakfast there with a former president and first lady, Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter, on Sunday morning.