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Buttigieg at crossroads after South Carolina as Democrats court black voters

The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, had a strong start in the primary process winning the most delegates in Iowa, but did poorly in South Carolina.

WASHINGTON — The window is closing for Pete Buttigieg's longshot presidential campaign. His fourth-place finish in South Carolina exposed a core vulnerability, namely the inability to attract the support of black voters who are vital to any winning Democratic coalition. 

Now he heads into Super Tuesday without momentum and scrambling for money against other moderate candidates who have both. Even some Democrats who are among his admirers are saying that it may be time to consider whether it's wise to go much farther. 

Buttigieg had a strong start in the 2020 primary process, winning the most delegates in Iowa and tying with Bernie Sanders for delegates in New Hampshire. But now, he has the third most delegates falling behind Joe Biden, but ahead of Elizabeth Warren. 

Credit: AP
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to supporters at a caucus night campaign rally, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

On NBC's Meet the Press, Buttigieg said he was not planning on quitting. 

“I think the most important thing right now is to look at what we can do to make sure that we put forward a campaign that is going to end the Trump presidency,” he said. "Every day we're in this campaign is a day that we've reached the conclusion that pushing forward is the best thing that we can do for the country and for the party."  

Buttigieg did not name specific states where he expects to win pledged delegates when asked by "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd.

On Sunday, Buttigieg visited President Jimmy Carter in Plains, Georgia, marking his second visit with the former president. 

The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor met with Carter at Buffalo Cafe in Carter's hometown. Former first lady Rosalynn Carter also joined them at the cafe, along with Chasten Buttigieg, the Democratic presidential candidate's husband.

Buttigieg then planned to travel to the Super Tuesday state of Alabama to participate with other presidential candidates to recreate the historic civil rights march in Selma. 

Biden received a warm reception on Sunday in Selma, as he and other Democratic presidential hopefuls appealed for black support in the town where demonstrators were beaten in 1965 for marching for the right to vote. Events marking the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” come two days before Alabama Democrats join voters in more than a dozen states in the Super Tuesday cluster of primary elections. 

The former vice president told parishioners during morning worship services at historic Brown Chapel AME Church that the country has moved the wrong way under President Donald Trump.

RELATED: Joe Biden wins South Carolina, hoping for Super Tuesday momentum

Credit: AP
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, left, meets with former President Jimmy Carter, center, at Buffalo Cafe in Plains, Ga., Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Biden had for weeks looked to the black voters of South Carolina to hand a win to his flagging campaign. On Saturday, they delivered. Biden won 61% of the votes cast by non-white voters, dominating a crowded Democratic field among a group that made up more than half of the electorate. He also performed strongly with older voter and self-described moderates and conservatives.

Voters in Saturday’s Democratic presidential primary election in South Carolina called health care the top issue facing the country today, clearly naming it as more important than the economy, climate change, immigration, race relations and guns. That’s a change from Iowa and New Hampshire, where Democrats put climate change alongside health care as the top issue facing the country — far above all others.

Biden says he can “unite this country, the whole country” after scoring a comeback victory in South Carolina’s Democratic primary. The decisive win could force moderate rivals out of the race and blunt the rise of progressive leader Sanders. Biden vowed Sunday he would improve his campaign operation— and even his own performance — as the race pushes toward Super Tuesday. 

Sanders, though, said his fundraising haul points to the vibrancy of his campaign. 

Key rivals are showing few signs of exiting. One, billionaire former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, will be on the ballot for the first time Tuesday. Warren's campaign talked openly of a convention fight this summer.  

RELATED: 'SNL' pokes fun at VP Pence's new role leading coronavirus response

Credit: AP
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Brown Chapel AME church Sunday, March 1, 2020, in Selma, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

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