— -- Bernie Sanders met with Rev. Al Sharpton Wednesday in New York in an apparent move to diversify his voting base, which may become crucial as the campaign moves into South Carolina.
"Sanders very much needs to up his game among blacks and Hispanics if he's going to win in the more diverse states ahead," said ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer. "And for Clinton these groups are an important bulwark - if she can retain their broad support."
Even in New Hampshire, where Sanders won handily in counties across the state, Clinton received 52 percent of the non-white vote, while Sanders received 48 percent, according to ABC News exit polling.
Right after Sanders won New Hampshire, he headed to New York City with his wife Jane, where he met Sharpton at Sylvia’s restaurant in Harlem, the same place where then Sen. Barack Obama met with Sharpton in 2008.
In remarks after the meeting, Sharpton said he “bluntly” asked Sanders about the water crisis in Flint, affirmative action and police brutality, which he described as “issues that affect our communities around the country.”
Sharpton praised Sanders for coming to Harlem the day after his victory in New Hampshire, explaining that it sends a “signal” of the community’s importance.
“Sen. Sanders coming here this morning further makes it clear we will not be ignored. Our votes must be earned,” said Sharpton.
Sharpton did not make an endorsement, but said one would likely come after Clinton meets with civil rights leaders, which is scheduled to happen on Feb. 18. Sharpton said Sanders has also agreed to meet with civil rights leaders.
Sanders has received endorsements from some African-American leaders, including former NAACP head Ben Jealous and Harlem State Sen. Bill Perkins. However, the Congressional Black Caucus’ political action committee is set to endorse Clinton today.
According to a clip of their conversation posted on MSNBC, Sharpton asked Sanders how he was planning on succeeding with more diverse electorates after Iowa and New Hampshire, which are mostly white.
"We have the issues, we have the agenda, we have the ground troops to rally the people of South Carolina and Nevada," Sanders replied.
Sharpton told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that the campaign wanted to meet with him.
Despite Clinton’s advantages with minority voters, her campaign held a conference call just hours after the Sanders/Sharpton meeting to stress their candidate’s superior record in supporting the African-American community.
The call, featuring Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, President of the NAACP's New York State Conference Dr. Hazel Dukes and South Carolina Minority leader J. Todd Rutherford, claimed Sanders is only starting to express interest in issues affecting African-Americans now because he needs the votes. “Until recently, Sen. Sanders has been absent from the African-American community,” said Hazel Dukes.
Jeffries said that for the last 40 years, Sanders has been “missing in action” in support of issues important to the African community. The surrogates claimed that Sanders’ stances on guns and healthcare would be harmful to the African-American community and questioned his commitment to criminal justice.
“He may be for us now that he’s campaigning outside of Vermont but what is his evidence of reform for people of color?” said Rutherford.