When John Kerry was running for president, Al Sharpton got the VIP treatment: a choice speaking slot at the convention and a gig flying around the country to stump for the gray-haired white guy. This time around, what role might Barack Obama—whom Sharpton hasn’t gotten around to endorsing—envision for the Rev? Not a big one. “He’s the man who doesn’t matter in this one,” says one Democratic strategist. Says an Obama spokesperson, he “does not have a formal role,” but “communicates his views from time to time with the campaign.” Sharpton spent the early primary season watching Hillary Clinton and John Edwards court him for an endorsement that never arrived. He says he’s kept his distance so he could continue his civil disobedience without forcing Obama to “defend or not defend” what he was doing. Plus, he’s busier now than in 2004, when he’d just come off a losing race and “didn’t have that much to do.” Nonetheless, “It’s no secret that I’ve always been a supporter. Me and Obama, we cool.”
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