The Jan. 13 Politics column quoted Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton on the subject of his past as saying "I think you got white trash with worse backgrounds." The quote was taken from a transcript of NBC's "Meet the Press" done by eMediaMillWorks and distributed by the Associated Press. NBC's transcript of the show quoted Sharpton as saying, "I think you've got white candidates with worse backgrounds." A review of a recording of the program was inconclusive. Sharpton spokeswoman Rachel Noerdlinger said she did not know what word Sharpton used but "he definitely didn't use the words 'white trash.'" (Published 1/14/03)

Perennial gadfly Al Sharpton, fan of Fidel Castro and avenger of Tawana Brawley, announced that on Jan. 21 he would file the initial papers to run for president as a Democrat.

"We're moving full speed ahead," Sharpton said yesterday in an interview with NBC's Tim Russert. "I think that part of what's wrong with politics today is that we're too poll-driven rather than pulse-driven."

Indeed, polls show Sharpton with little support compared with better-known Democrats in the race. Sharpton, asked to explain in one sentence why he should be president, answered in three sentences.

"Because the United States today sits in a global village," Sharpton said. "The world, because of technology and communication, is one village. And I, more than anyone talking about running, understands the village and I feel represents the priorities that the village must deal with in order to survive as a planet."

Russert asked Sharpton if a white candidate would be taken seriously with some of the less-attractive items on Sharpton's resume: supported Brawley's assertion, later discredited, that she was gang-raped by white law enforcement agents; paid a defamation award; pleaded guilty for failing to file a state tax return; and was evicted for failing to pay rent.

"I think you got white trash with worse backgrounds," he said, adding: "I'm not getting into name-calling, but we've had candidates that have had personal indiscretion."

No Governorship for Bayh

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) has decided not to run, once again, for governor of Indiana.

Bayh, who governed the Hoosier State for two terms before coming to Washington, had been mulling a run ever since his party's presumed front-runner, Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan, bowed out of the race last month. The governor, Democrat Frank L. O'Bannon, cannot run again.

Bayh said in a statement he could not simultaneously run for the office and tend to his Senate responsibilities. "The responsible course is for me to focus completely, not partially, on meeting these pressing challenges," he said, referring to his legislative priorities.

Bayh's decision was not unexpected; he had said it was "unlikely" he would join the 2004 race. But his decision will help open the budding contest to a handful of lesser-known Democrats who are believed to be considering a run. Among them: Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), former Democratic National Committee chairman Joe Andrew and state Sen. Vi Simpson.

The senator's decision will also save Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon S. Corzine (N.J.) the task of having to find someone to replace him. Bayh's Senate term ends in 2004 and he is expected to run for reelection.

Several Republicans have declared their candidacies, but all are waiting for Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., White House budget director and favorite son, to decide whether he will join the race. Daniels told the Indianapolis Star he will announce his plans in the next few months.

Quotable

"If John Kerry -- probably the most qualified of the declared candidates, in my view -- is out there presenting the message that I would, I wouldn't feel the need to run," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), in an interview with the Gannett News Service. Biden added that he could wait until as late as this fall to announce whether he will seek the presidential nomination.

Researcher Brian Faler contributed to this report.