SELMA, Ala. (Reuters) – Pete Buttigieg was preparing to retire from the race for Democratic presidential nomination, an aide said on Sunday, the day after moderate colleague Joe Biden won a big victory in South Carolina.
The move shocked the democratic contest to choose a candidate to hire against Republican President Donald Trump in the November elections and came two days ahead of the 14 Super Tuesday nomination contests to 14 states that will offer the biggest election prize so far.
Buttigieg, a 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who gained initial momentum after narrowly winning the Iowa caucus last month and finishing a second neighbor in New Hampshire, had sought to unite Democrats, independents and moderates Republican voters. He finished fourth in South Carolina.
His departure would leave six Democrats in the party’s presidential race, which once had more than 20 candidates. Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer dropped his offer after finishing third in South Carolina on Saturday.
Last Sunday, Democratic candidates honored the anniversary of a historic civil rights march in Alabama in 1965.
Some faithful in the African American church in Selma, Alabama, where the event was held, have turned their backs on moderate presidential contender Michael Bloomberg, who will appear for the first time on Tuesday after missing the first four competitions.
Bloomberg, a former Mayor of New York, received a cold reception at the historic AME Church of the Brown Chapel in Selma after the pastor, Reverend Leodis Strong, told the meeting that the billionaire businessman had initially rejected the invitation to speak.
“I was hurt, I was disappointed,” said Strong as Bloomberg looked at him stupidly. “I think it’s important that he came, and it shows his willingness to change.”
About 10 people in the small church with about two hundred present stood up and turned their backs on Bloomberg while talking about racial inequality.
Biden and Bloomberg are trying to present themselves as the party’s best choice to face Trump, stating that Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, is too far left to win the political election.
“ONLY ONE INSULT”
Black voters are a key democratic constituency and Bloomberg has been criticized for supporting the use of a police practice called stop and frisk in New York City that has encouraged police to stop and search pedestrians and has hit disproportionately black and latin.
“It’s just an insult to him to come here. It’s a lack of respect for the legacy of this place,” Lisa Brown, who went to Los Angeles from Selma, after turning her back on Bloomberg, told Reuters. He said the idea of protesting against Bloomberg’s remarks had circulated, but that he was a person, not an organized group.
The silent protest suggests that Bloomberg is facing an uphill climb with some African American voters, who led Biden to a sensational victory in South Carolina.
Biden, who was vice president of the first American president of the United States, Barack Obama, was clearly the favorite in the Selma church. He was seated by the pastor, in front of the pews where Bloomberg sat, and received a brilliant presentation from United States representative Terri Sewell, a black Alabama legislator.
“He has earned the right to be on this pulpit and to turn to you now,” Sewell told the crowd.
Candidates were in Selma to celebrate the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” when civil rights protesters were beaten by state soldiers and local police while crossing a bridge.
Last week, Democratic Party officials voiced concern about Sanders’ early wave, worrying that his aggressive political priorities, including the creation of a government-run health system, could rule out moderate voters who were strongly needed to defend the competitive seats in Congress.
“I think the Democratic Party is looking for a Democrat – not a socialist, not a former Republican, a Democrat – to be their candidate,” Biden told Fox News Sunday.
Biden’s reference to a former Republican seems to have been addressed to Bloomberg, who has changed parties several times in his career.
Sanders attacked Biden for receiving contributions from political organizations called Super PACs and billionaires, for what he said was at the expense of the working class, the middle class and low-income people.
“I don’t go to the homes of wealthy people like Joe Biden,” Sanders said on CBS’s “Face the Nation”.
Biden slows Sanders down in fundraising and organization in Super Tuesday states and beyond.
Sanders planned to camp out Sunday in heavy democratic California, where he conducts opinion polls.
Sanders’ campaign said overnight that it raised $ 46.5 million from over 2.2 million donations in February, a huge sum that belittles what any other Democratic candidate raised last year over a period of three months.
Bloomberg continues to spend. He purchased three minutes of commercial airtime during the CBS and NBC television networks on Sunday evening to address the coronavirus epidemic.
Reporting by Joseph Ax and Trevor Hunnicutt, Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Detroit; Written by Doina Chiacu; Curated by Scott Malone, Lisa Shumaker and Peter Cooney