RICHMOND, Va. – The Rev. Al Sharpton (search) dazzled hundreds of Baptist churchgoers Sunday morning when he took the pulpit, pledging to stay in the race for president and promising that good things happen "in God's time."
The preacher-turned-politician told worshippers that they should vote for the candidate who represents their views, not the one they think has the best chance of winning. He has won just 12 delegates to front-runner John Kerry's 411, according to an Associated Press delegate count.
"Just between us, there are six folk running," Sharpton said, "Five will lose. The person you vote for may lose. The person you vote for may drop out. But I'm not going to drop out. I'm going to go all the way because we cannot be disrespected or marginalized."
Sharpton brought the congregation to its feet with his accounting of the biblical story of Joshua, who struggled to rise as a leader, all in "God's own time." Joshua succeeded Moses as leader of the Jewish people. By the end, Sharpton was singing his message as worshippers yelled, clapped and stomped to the beat of the bluesy gospel band.
Eric Wade, an usher at Cedar Street Baptist Church of God, called Sharpton inspiring and said he planned to vote for him in Tuesday's primary.
"He has enlightened a lot of people here today who didn't know what he stood for and now understand him a little better," Wade said. "He's all about coming from nothing and going somewhere, no matter who you are."
Candidate John Edwards spoke to the same congregation shortly after Sharpton left, one of three Baptist churches the North Carolina senator visited Sunday. Worshippers offered him polite applause as he delivered a shorten version of his standard speech.