held public office, but Walters contends that his leadership skills are far from lacking. “He has demonstrated courage by leading street rallies in hostile white Brooklyn neighborhoods,” says Walters. “He’s good on the stump; he can excite a crowd and elicit emotional appeal.”
Sharpton’s strategy is to connect with the people; he has spent many weeks on the road pushing his agenda. “I’m going to college campuses, to churches, to grassroots communities, to the streets — that’s where the people are,” says Sharpton, whose supporters include hip-hop personas Russell Simmons, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, and Jay-Z.
Both campaigns will have to be tight in an election rife with contenders. The other candidates include: former Gov. Howard Dean (Vt.), Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (Mo.), Sen. Bob Graham (Fla.), Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Conn.), Al Gore’s running mate in 2000. With their unique styles and political backgrounds, Sharpton and Moseley Braun are waging insurgent campaigns in the struggle over who will lead the Democratic Party in the fight to recapture the White House.
With nearly a year and a half to go before the election, the candidates have a long struggle ahead of them. The first real tests will come when they face primaries with a significant number of black voters, perhaps beginning with South Carolina. But for now, Sharpton and Moseley Braun are jockeying for position in preparation for the fight to come.