The presidential nomination battle between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton moved decisively today to a fight for African Americans’ votes, as the two candidates touted dueling endorsements to bolster their standing within the community.
The flurry of activity underscored how the massive wins by Sanders and Republican billionaire Donald Trump in New Hampshire have reshuffled the presidential race yet again. Even as Trump and Sanders worked to build momentum for their campaigns, some other contenders were left reassessing their strategies.
As Trump made the rounds on television, Sanders was welcomed in Harlem by the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose backing could potentially boost the Vermont senator’s standing in the Democratic Party’s base. Sharpton embraced Sanders before they headed to a soul food restaurant for breakfast, but afterward he said he would not make an immediate endorsement in the presidential race.
After Sanders defeated Clinton by the widest margin in the history of New Hampshire primaries — garnering 60.3 percent compared to her 38 percent, with 97.7 percent of precincts reporting — he wasted no time in capitalizing on his New Hampshire surge. The senator flew to New York with his wife, Jane, to court Sharpton with former NAACP leader Benjamin Jealous, who recently endorsed him.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Jealous took on Clinton over criminal justice reform, saying it was Sanders who had demonstrated a lifelong commitment to issues of racial inequality.
“My generation was the first generation raised in the era of mass incarceration. My children are now 3 and 10, and I do not intend for my children to be food for our prisons the way that my brothers and sisters have been,” he said. “There is no candidate in this race who is fiercer in standing up for those who need allies in the struggle than Bernie Sanders.”
Jealous, who noted the majority of African Americans would be casting their ballots in the primary race over the next 30 days, said Sanders is the only candidate of either party with “a racial justice platform. . . . And he’s the best candidate we have.”
Sharpton, having said he would not make an endorsement Wednesday, plans to meet next week with Clinton.
“But our issues cannot be marginalized,” Sharpton said. “In January of next year, for the first time in American history, an African American family will be moving out of the White House. I do not want black concerns to be moved out with them.”
Sanders has built a massive movement with rousing attacks on the power of Wall Street, and a promise of a “political revolution” that would provide universal, government-run health insurance and free public-college tuition.
VIDEO OF SANDERS ARRIVING AND GREETING SHARPTON:
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