Buttigieg (copy)

Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the Galivants Ferry Stump on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. The 2020 presidential candidate is beginning a new ad campaign in South Carolina. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

COLUMBIA — Pete Buttigieg, the young Indiana mayor who has surged into the top tier of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, will be spending $2 million on media ad buys in South Carolina beginning with a radio spot Thursday, according to his campaign.

The 60-second radio ad, which the campaign said will air in all of the state's major media markets, contrasts Buttigieg's military experience in Afghanistan with Republican President Donald Trump's reality TV background and touts Buttigieg's determination to tackle gun violence and systemic racism.

"I didn’t just come here to end the era of Donald Trump," Buttigieg says in the ad, with cheering crowds in the background. "I am here to launch the era that must come next."

The campaign hopes to stay on air throughout the next few months in the lead-up to South Carolina's "First in the South" Feb. 29 primary.

The ad comes as Buttigieg, 37, has recently ramped up his ground game in South Carolina, closing the gap on other leading candidates. The campaign said it has opened four offices in the state and hired 40 full-time staff members on the ground to spread his message.

“There is a growing energy and momentum behind Pete’s bold and unifying vision for the future of our country," said Buttigieg's S.C. spokeswoman Lauren Brown. "We are entering a new phase of the campaign, building on our robust organizing infrastructure, and adding significant investments to deliver Pete’s message throughout the state and win South Carolina.”

While Buttigieg has risen all the way to the top of some polls in the first two states, Iowa and New Hampshire, he has faced a more uphill climb in South Carolina, where most of the Democratic electorate is African American.

In a recent Post and Courier-Change Research poll last month, Buttigieg came in fifth place with the support of 9 percent of the state's likely Democratic primary voters. But the results also revealed a racial gap, as 15 percent of white voters said they support Buttigieg compared to 5 percent of black voters.

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He has vowed to work on improving his standing among black voters. Several of his recent senior staff hires in South Carolina are African American, and he has cited issues such as Denmark's water problems as an example of challenges he wants to confront.

"These issues can’t be treated as a specialty issue. ... For me, it’s consistent with everything else," he said. "There is this false choice that has been presented whether or not to talk about kitchen table issues or whether to talk about race, as if black and brown voters don’t have kitchen tables, too."

Few other candidates have begun airing ads in South Carolina. One notable exception is Tom Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund manager and longtime liberal activist, whose personal wealth has allowed him to blitz the airwaves for months as he tries to raise his name recognition.

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina Statehouse, congressional delegation and campaigns. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.