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Al Sharpton yesterday made the rounds on Capitol Hill, chatting with presidential contenders Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, and Joe Biden -- because he's concerned that they're not addressing important issues that affect the African-American community. Specifically, Sharpton's spokeswoman Rachel Nordlinger told First Read that he is concerned that he "hasn't heard candidates talk about civil rights issues."

The New York Times: "One purpose of the visit, two New York advisers and confidants of Mr. Sharpton said, was to send a signal to … Obama … that he should not take for granted the political support of Mr. Sharpton."

Sharpton's visit, the Washington Times adds, was not just to urge presidential contenders to address civil rights issues -- but to warn that if they didn't, he would run.

After his meeting with Sharpton yesterday, Obama said he feels confident that when people get to know him, he won't have a problem with the African-American vote. "'If you look at my black vote in my U.S. Senate race or my approval ratings back in Illinois, I feel pretty confident that, once folks know who I am, we'll do just fine,'" Obama said.

The AP covers Obama's call yesterday for universal health care. "Obama was previewing what is shaping up to be a theme of the 2008 Democratic primary. His chief rivals, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards, also are strong proponents of universal health care and have promised to offer their plans."

John Kerry tells the Boston Herald it was his "gut" -- not others -- that told him he shouldn't run for president. "'Nine-tenths of them wanted me to run. I had an enormous amount of pressure to run,' the senator said. 'But I had to go with what was in my gut. My gut told me this was not the right time. Period.'" He added that both his wife and fellow Sen. Ted Kennedy were supportive of a second run.  http

But the Boston Globe, who also spoke with the senator, says that "there were warning signs for Kerry: Some of his top fund-raisers and staff members from 2004 were hesitant to commit to helping Kerry run again" while Clinton and Obama "were drawing a lot of attention as early contenders."

And the Boston Herald reports that some people want Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling to run for Kerry's Senate seat. "The Red Sox pitching hero didn't flatly rule out the idea, either, though he didn't sound like he was about to hit the campaign trail anytime soon."