Rev. Al Sharpton meets with Clinton and Sanders—
SUSAN WATTS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Rev. AL Sharpton’s support could be critical right now with Clinton and Sanders in a close race for the Democratic nomination.
He’s the busiest failed White House contender in America.
Over the past week, the Rev. Al Sharpton has had sit-downs with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both of whom are looking for his endorsement in the tight race for the Democratic nomination.
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The Sanders meeting was the second in eight days and came just three weeks after he huddled with Michael Bloomberg’s top political adviser to discuss the former mayor’s potential White House bid.
Sharpton, never known for his humility, isn’t the least bit surprised he’s in demand.
MARCUS SANTOS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Bernie Sanders (r.) meets with the Rev. Al Sharpton for breakfast in New York.
Sanders, he said, gets “a lot of mileage” coming to Harlem to see him after winning the New Hampshire primary, while Clinton benefits because he supported Obama in 2008.
“There’s political capital for them either way,” he told the Daily News.
Sharpton’s support — or even the perception of his support — could be critical right now with Clinton and Sanders in a close race for the Democratic nomination.
He won 10% of the vote there when he ran for President in 2004 — more than the 8% in his home state of New York — and his radio show “Keeping it Real” broadcasts in the state’s two biggest media markets.
ANDREW BURTON/GETTY IMAGES
Hillary Clinton (l.) meets with Rev. Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders in New York City.
But despite their best efforts, Sharpton has so far declined to weigh in — and might not.
“There’s a possibility I will stay out,” he said.
He said the only way he would make an endorsement is if someone makes a “compelling argument” to prioritize his key issues like mass incarceration among African Americans and systemic police reform.
“I’m not preoccupied with an endorsement,” he said. “I’m much more concerned about influencing what’s in the debate.”
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If he does choose to endorse, it won’t come without baggage.
As popular as he is with some, others still see Sharpton as a divisive figure, a remnant from his days as a track-suit-wearing rabble-rouser who infamously supported Tawana Brawley in her discredited rape allegations from the late 1980s.
He’s also been dogged by tax problems over the years, prompting Twitter user ‘Countermoonbat’ to snark of his Sanders meeting, “BREAKING: Guy who wants to raise taxes has breakfast with guy who doesn’t pay them.”
The naysayers have never stopped him, however.
“Politically, I always refer to him as the Phoenix,” said Christina Greer, a Fordham University political science professor.
“He rises from the ashes and becomes greater than what he was.”
Sharpton showed off his debate skills during his failed White House bid, which helped him land a talent agent and his MSNBC show.
“Like him or hate him, he is one of the sharpest political minds in the country, and certainly the best political mind in the civil rights community,” said Kevin Sheekey, the Bloomberg aide who recently sat down with Sharpton.
But others argue his power comes not in his support, but in his hostility.
“You don’t want to get into — excuse the language — a pissing match with him,” said Fred Seigel, a conservative Manhattan Institute fellow and long-time Sharpton critic. “He’s a shakedown artist.”
Sharpton isn’t moved by the critics.
“I’m more at this stage concerned about what I have fought for all my life than I am about who might be in the foxhole with me,” he said.