CHARLOTTE – South Charlotte resident Charles DeLoach was fully prepared to cast his vote for Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg on Super Tuesday. But 48 hours before, his preferred candidate dropped out of the race.
This was the case for moderate voters across the country who intended to vote for Buttigieg or Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, who ended her candidacy March 2. Both candidates, along with Beto O’Rourke, who exited the race in November, endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden as voters sought a new candidate to get behind.
DeLoach said Buttigieg was the reason he got excited about politics in the first place. After looking into the American political system, DeLoach noticed many flaws, and Buttigieg brought them to light during his campaign.
His excitement for Buttigieg led him to travel 16 hours from Charlotte to Iowa to caucus for him and knock on doors to garner support in January, as well as knock on doors in Charlotte and South Carolina following the Iowa Caucus. After having conversations with moderate voters who voted for Donald Trump in 2016, he realized many were dissatisfied with Trump’s performance and sought a home within the Democratic Party. They found that home in Buttigieg, who emphasized voters were not defined by their past votes, but by the votes they cast in the future.
“I think that really spoke to a lot of people who are looking at this administration and seeing that they don’t want to be a part of it, versus Bernie Sanders, who’s more, ‘Join the revolution or we’re going to take you down,’ which is a very adversarial mentality,” DeLoach said. “When people see a message of inclusion from this young guy that makes sense and is a little more moderate, it provides a place for them to go.”
Though Buttigieg gave his endorsement to Biden, Sanders urged Buttigieg supporters to switch over to his campaign. But DeLoach chose to vote for Biden on Super Tuesday.
“As sad as it is that Pete is out, the reason that he was running is still very necessary,” DeLoach said. “We do need to provide those moderate Republicans and Independents, who voted for Trump and feel bad about it, a place to call home in the Democratic Party, and Bernie is not providing that … Biden, like Pete, works across the aisle, so it was the closer alignment to why I supported Pete.”
At William R. Davie Park on Tuesday morning, south Charlotte resident Pete Baynard felt optimistic about Biden’s chances in the race. He has supported Biden since he entered the Democratic primary because of Biden’s goals and vision for the country, as well as his political experience.
In 2016, Baynard’s precinct favored Trump over Hillary Clinton by nearly 400 votes. After seeing several voters give him a smile and a thumbs up as he held Biden campaign gear outside, Baynard was hopeful things have changed since 2016.
“I can’t imagine going for another four years under the current president that we have,” Baynard said. “I think [Trump is] demeaning to minorities and anyone who doesn’t fit his ideal picture of what Americans should be. As Americans, we are all races, we are all ages and all ethnicities, and I don’t think he acknowledges that.”
At the end of the day, Democratic voters at Baynard’s precinct rallied behind Biden with 353 votes. Mike Bloomberg, a moderate Democrat, took 186 votes at the precinct. Bloomberg has since dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden. Sanders received the precinct’s third-most number of votes, 123.
Though Sanders, a Democratic socialist, has claimed some primary victories, Baynard said he still believes Biden has a chance.
“I think that Bernie is a formidable opponent and there’s no question he has gained some strength, but I also saw the South Carolina results and Biden was in the lead over Sanders, and all of the endorsements he got yesterday from Buttigieg, Klobuchar and O’Rourke,” Baynard said. “I think he’s got at least as much momentum and wind behind his sails.”
The excitement behind Biden lagged compared to Sanders before Biden’s 30-point victory in South Carolina. But to Christian Cano, a former Congressional candidate and current Sanders supporter, the momentum is everything.
“All you have to do is walk into a Biden rally and you don’t see excitement,” Cano said. “It’s the same feeling we had when Hillary ran. There was no excitement. The Pete campaign had some pretty good supporters … but Democrats vote because we are inspired and Republicans vote because they are afraid. If you can’t inspire the Democratic base, they won’t come out in the rain like this. So I’m pretty confident that Bernie is going to win here.”
Cano stood outside of Olde Providence Elementary School on Tuesday morning to canvass for Sanders, as well as senate and county commission candidates. His precinct also favored Trump over Clinton in 2016, but Cano believes many of his Republican friends and neighbors could vote for Sanders if he receives the nomination.
“The same reasons they like Bernie seems to be the same reasons that they like Trump,” Cano said. “They know what they’re getting, he says what he’s going to say and he’s working to shake things up, and that’s what they want.”
After results were reported, Sanders came in third place at Cano’s precinct with 145 votes compared to Bloomberg’s 195 and Biden’s 400.
Cano said though Sanders’s ideas are different from those of the Republican Party, he believes Sanders is running his campaign like a Republican in terms of strategy. He said Sanders knows who his base is and aims to grab those voters, rather than trying to reach everyone.
At Elizabeth Lane Elementary School, Matthews resident Suzette Lillard said she does not believe any of the Democratic candidates in the primary are strong enough to beat Trump.
“He’s probably the greatest president of my life and I don’t see anything on the Democrat’s side that I would consider at all,” Lillard said. “I guess it depends on what’s important to you. I’m pro-life, I’m pro-Second Amendment and I want a strong border. There’s no Democrat that I could even consider.”
Regardless of who gets the nomination, all three Democratic supporters said they will vote for the Democratic candidate in November, even though they may not be as excited as they would for their preferred candidate.
“I would fight for Bernie with literally everything I have if he’s nominated,” DeLoach said. “The most important thing is getting Trump out of office. This is bigger than any one candidate and bigger than me, so I would support Bernie wholeheartedly if he was the nominee.”