Although Nevada's Democratic caucus is only two days away, Bernie Sanders met with nine civil rights leaders Wednesday at the Washington, D.C., bureau of the National Urban League.
The senator held the meeting hours before the Democratic town hall because he is trying to make inroads among black voters ahead of the South Carolina primary. Al Sharpton and Urban League chief Marc Morial were among the leaders on hand.
"The African-American vote can't be taken for granted," NAACP President and CEO Cornell Brooks said at the roundtable with Sanders. "Our agenda is not a footnote."
Sharpton refused to say whom he'd endorse, although he admitted he would come to a decision in the near future "as we get closer to primary days." Last week, Sharpton met with Hillary Clinton and implied he would support her campaign.
"I think that both have the ability. I think that he has had the challenge being the unknown, and I think that he's run a very, very effective campaign in becoming more known," Sharpton said of Sanders.
The leaders made clear that Sanders could not rely on his 1960s civil rights activism alone.
"The issue is not who was there. The issue is who did what? Whether they marched or whether they were in office. Some folks we did not know at all, some folks we knew too well. So the fact of familiarity cuts both ways," Sharpton said of Sanders and Clinton. "The issue now in 2016 is who can lead and who has the credibility, vision and can build the trust in order to show that the people will vote for them."
Morial added, "It's not just being in the right place at the right tim. It's about a leadership role that one has played. I think voters will ask what position and what message a candidate has, but they will also ask to look into where has the messaging been on issues we are talking about today historically."
The Urban League has invited every presidential candidate to meet with them, although they will not endorse. Thus far, only Clinton and Sanders have taken the group up on the offer.
Sanders and the community leaders also discussed issues such as voting rights, criminal justice reform, the crisis in Flint, Mich., and the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.