For Buttigieg, a Search for Black Support That Never Arrived

Mr. Buttigieg kicked off the day before the primary with another monochrome campaign stop in Charleston, S.C. Sitting up front was Phyllis Johnson, an African-American Air Force retiree who said she admired Mr. Buttigieg’s youth, military service and his eloquent manner of speaking.

But she too expressed dismay with the demographics of the crowd.

“He has come here a lot, he is making the effort. That tells me he cares,” she said. “But I’m looking around now and don’t see anyone else black. You see people that can afford to take a day off from work. Not everybody can.”

Later Friday Mr. Buttigieg stopped in Sumter for what his campaign billed as a “community conversation on environmental justice.” Aides placed a two-page summary of Mr. Buttigieg’s Douglass Plan for black empowerment on each of the 100 chairs. But when the audience arrived, it was almost entirely white in a county that is 48 percent black.

“I feel like he’s got a fresh appeal,” said Erik Himes, a white high school orchestra teacher from Sumter who sat waiting for Mr. Buttigieg. The Douglass Plan summary had slipped off his chair onto the ground beneath his chair. “He has that vibe like Obama.”

Mr. Himes said he was unfamiliar with the details of the Douglass Plan.

On the final days of his Iowa campaign, Mr. Buttigieg took the stage after rousing introductions by local black surrogates including Quentin Hart, the African-American mayor of Waterloo, Iowa. But in South Carolina, aside from Mr. Moore, who had to tend to his catering business during the day, the opening speakers were either white or imported from out of state.

James L. “Bubba” Cromer Jr., a white former South Carolina state representative, delivered a spirited introduction for Mr. Buttigieg at his closing rally Friday night in Columbia. Afterward, Mr. Cromer said Mr. Buttigieg never had a chance to compete for black votes with the relationships long established by Mr. Biden, the resources of Mr. Steyer or the excitement around Mr. Sanders.

“There’s a silent majority for him,” Mr. Cromer said. “They’re just not African-American voters.”

Reid J. Epstein reported from Sumter, Rock Hill and Charleston, S.C., and Trip Gabriel reported from Richmond, Va.

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