Buttigieg dismisses Biden’s ‘establishment’ endorsement from Kerry

HENNIKER, N.H. – Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is downplaying rival Joe Biden’s "Washington establishment" endorsement from former Secretary of State John Kerry.

“I have never been part of the Washington establishment and I recognize that there are relationships among senators who have been together on Capitol Hill as long as I’ve been alive and that is what it is,” Buttigieg said Thursday in an interview in New Hampshire.

The South Bend, Indiana mayor made his comments soon after the former vice president’s campaign announced the Kerry endorsement. Kerry – the Democrats’ 2004 presidential nominee – was a longtime senator from Massachusetts who later served as America’s top diplomat during President Barack Obama’s second term. Kerry and Biden have a long history of working together, first in the Senate and later in the Obama administration.

Buttigieg worked on Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign.

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The rollout of the endorsement by Kerry – who will campaign with Biden in Iowa on Friday and in New Hampshire on Sunday – came hours after Buttigieg scored the backing of three leading former Obama officials.

“I will say one of the reasons why I appreciate the endorsement of the folks who came through today is we’re talking about people who understand the presidency very intimately and very well and for them to agree that I’m the right person to step into that office and that role at a time like this really validates what we’re saying as a campaign,” Buttigieg emphasized in the interview.

The candidate has highlighted similarities between Obama’s historic 2008 White House campaign and his own 2020 presidential bid. Buttigieg notes that both he and Obama were new faces for most Americans, and that he is following the former president’s footsteps in running on a positive message of unity and hope.

But he seemed to downplay the ties when asked by Fox News.

“I think every campaign in every era is different and I recognized that while I’m flattered by a lot of comparisons and see some parallels with 2008, we’re also at a different moment,” he noted.

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Biden, of course, was also a key player in the 2008 general election campaign. Obama chose Biden – a senator from Delaware who unsuccessfully ran earlier that cycle for their party’s presidential nomination – as his running mate.

Once the longest of long shots for the nomination, Buttigieg soared to top-tier status in recent months as he's surged in the early voting state polls and hauled in tons of campaign cash. Biden -- along with progressive Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts – is in that top tier of candidates along with Buttigieg.

Thanks in part to the eight years he served as Obama’s vice president, Biden enjoys a large advantage over his rivals when it comes to support from black voters, a crucial component of the Democratic presidential primary electorate.

Buttigieg acknowledged Biden’s advantage among black voters but predicted it would not last.

“It’s no secret there’s one candidate who has a major advantage right now among African American voters, but I don’t think that’s permanent and I think it’s our job to go out there and earn our share of the vote,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg, whose lack of support among black voters has been well documented in media reports, has stepped up his outreach efforts this autumn.

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg holds a town hall at New England College in Henniker, NH on Dec, 5, 2019

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg holds a town hall at New England College in Henniker, NH on Dec, 5, 2019

Buttigieg arrived in New Hampshire the morning after a gathering of black supporters at an event in his hometown of South Bend, Indiana was interrupted by a protester in a "Black Lives Matter" shirt. Video of the near violent incident went viral on social media.

Buttigieg explained that “there is a lot of negativity that spills over from Twitter that doesn’t quite reflect real life but sometimes ends up having real-life consequences. What we saw the other night was a good example.”

And he seemed to partially point fingers at a rival campaign saying, “You had a group of highly respected African American elected officials and other supporters talking about what we’ve been doing in the community and then somebody propelled by an opposition campaign literally tried to take the mic from an African American leader.

"It shows the work that we’ve got to do to make sure a sense of common purpose is established but also to make sure the truth gets out there and that’s what we’re being very intentional with in this campaign,” he said.