Democratic candidates appeal to black voters, debate in South Carolina

It's the final debate before South Carolina's primary and Super Tuesday. Democratic candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer have been working to build up support.
8:53 | 02/26/20

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Transcript for Democratic candidates appeal to black voters, debate in South Carolina
Carolina. Trying to win over black voters. South Carolina, Spanish moss swings low. We're here on the ground days before South Carolina's primary, riding through the state by bus, meeting voters on the picket lines and pews and challenging the candidates. Because you are mayor of South Bend, Indiana you don't get people of color. That process of earning trust can take time. Reporter: This Saturday's primary, the last before super Tuesday is a test for these hopefuls. Hello, hello, hello. Reporter: The first time America will see how they connect with black voters. African-Americans make up two-thirds of the electorate They're essential. Reporter: At tonight's debate, the fight for the democratic nomination couldn't be more fiery. I'm not over time. You spoke over time and I'm going to talk. Reporter: Tonight, Bernie Sanders is the front runner taking in incoming. I think would make a better president than Bernie. I do not think this is the best person to lead the ticket. Vladimir Putin thinks Donald Trump should be president of the United States, and that's why Russia is helping you get elected. I'm hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight. I wonder why. Reporter: For some people, tonight's debate was a reminder, this process is not perfect. I'm conscious of the fact that there's seven white people on this stage. When this process started more than a year ago, 20 candidates, diverse, African-American, women, Latino. This party has got to reevaluate the time, the calendar, because if south Carolina had gone first, every one of those people would still be in the race. Says a lot that at this point we've got more billionaires on the stage than we have people of color on the stage. Reporter: Cliff Albright is the co-founders of black voters matter. Going on bus tours all across the south. Now they're here in south Carolina. We're kicking off our tour here in Charleston, ready to hit communities, to help people get prepared for the upcoming primaries. Reporter: We travel with them to "Low country". Towns like bluffton. A local group is hosting a strategy session. People lost their lives to vote. I'm not here to geoff you any answers to your problems. Because you already have them. I know black folk aren't a monolith. It's important to create those relationships Ms. Reporter: The next day they're up the coast, hosting an event. Cliff says their campaign is about empowerment and encouraging voters to look critically at the candidates. We're basing our preference on who we think white folks would vote for. We're fearful of what could happen if we pick the wrong person and we're not able to beat Donald Trump. Reporter: He's critical of Mike Bloomberg, Joe Biden and Pete buttigieg who he says demonstrate they truly care about communities of color. If you don't have a track record on these issues we can't take you seriously. Reporter: On Sunday morning at the first Baptist church on James island, Pete buttigieg is here trying to connect with an audience he has struggled with. It is especially humbling, in the middle of black history month to think about what it means to stand before African-American voters and ask them for their vote. Reporter: As mayor of south Bend, Indiana, buttigieg has been criticized for his handling of a police shooting involving a black man and for policies that demolished housing in largely African-American neighborhoods. His support from voters here is in single digits. But janiesha hart's mind might be changes. I definitely loved what he had to say. He's the opposite of what we have in Washington now. I think he got my vote today. Reporter: Buttigieg was the church's guest today. But he hosted his own event. But look closely at the audience. I've been a professional journalist longer than you've been alive. I've never been to a political event at a black church where the majority of the audience was white. How do you explain that? At the last event we were at -- Reporter: In this church. I thought you were talking about the church we were at Reporter: No, this one here. I don't know the full makeup of the crowd, but we taking every opportunity to reach everybody we can. Reporter: But it was, because it fits the narrative that here's a candidate who fair or unfair seems to have a problem attracting minority voters. Again, I'm going to welcome anybody who's ready to hear our message and we will continue reaching out to everybody who has so much at stake. Reporter: Billionaire Tom Steyer has been pouring over $20 million into TV and social media ads targeted at south carolinians. Some polls show him in third place. You're a white billionaire from New York, educated in part in California. What makes you the person to represent a diverse state, a diverse nation? I have been working for racial, economic and social justice for decades. I started a non-profit community bank over a billion dollars. I started it 15 years ago. Reporter: At the black voters matter block party, Styer's name was in the air. I like Tom Steyer. Climate control would be his first option, first big thing to do, you know? Support thousands of jobs, thousands of green jobs, so I kind of like him right now, you know? Reporter: The front runner heading into Saturday's primary, Bernie Sanders, still dealing with the fallout of his "60 minutes" interview. When Fidel Castro came into office, he had a massive literacy program. Reporter: Buttigieg slamming him for it tonight. I'm not looking forward to a scenario when it comes to Donald Trump with his social order of the 1950s and Bernie Sanders with his strategy for the 1960s. When I heard that I shivered. That reinforced the fear that south carolinians have about the so-called democratic socialism. Reporter: The potential problem that someone like Bernie Sanders might present if a democratic socialist is at the top of the ticket it makes business hard for you in south Carolina. It does throughout the south. The fact of the matter is we have to understand that we have to make breakthroughs in the south if we are going to maintain our position as the majority party in the house of representatives. Reporter: And a campaign event for vice president Joe Biden. Hesitation about Sanders, a voter who's leaning toward Elizabeth Warren. He can do no wrong, I feel like I'm in a mentality that got trump to office. Joe Biden stands for a lot of right things. Reporter: Going into the primary season, political punditry predicted south Carolina would be Biden's for the taking. I worked like the devil to earn the vote of the African-American community. Reporter: Cliff Albright says otherwise. Just being in proximity to president Obama for eight years hasn't changed some of his views on some of the policies that were problematic before 2008. And if you ask black folks we know that. Ask them what policy that they're really excited about, and you'll hear crickets. Because we know our support of him isn't about our interests but about our fears. Reporter: Four years ago, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by nearly 15%. For now, it seems the only true front runner here is uncertainty. We'll have South Carolina primary results Saturday and next week be sure to tune in to complete super Tuesday coverage, 8:00 p.m./7:00 central on ABC.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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