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Edwards Retains Lead in South Carolina Primary - 2004-02-03

North Carolina Senator John Edwards has increased his lead in the latest polls over Massachusetts Senator John Kerry in the South Carolina Democratic primary. Voting is now underway in South Carolina, the first state in the U.S. south to hold a primary election this year.

According to a poll in the The State, the largest newspaper in South Carolina, 30 percent of Democratic Party voters say they support North Carolina Senator John Edwards, and 25 percent say they support Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

Walter Edgar, a professor of political science at the University of South Carolina, says for the first time this primary season, African Americans could decide the winner.

"African Americans are roughly a third of the population of South Carolina and in the Democratic Primary they will make up about 50 percent of the potential voters," he said. "So, the African American vote is very, very important."

The State newspaper poll shows retired General Wesley Clark, civil rights activist Al Sharpton, and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean all battling for third place. Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich are said to be far behind the other candidates.

Senator Edwards who was born in South Carolina and has campaigned heavily here says he has to win in the state to continue in the presidential race.

Voting was brisk at the North Columbia fire station on Tuesday. Yolanda Nelson, who works as a corrections officer, says she never misses an opportunity to vote.

"Just happy to be involved to vote," she said. "I think every vote counts and everything makes a difference. Just glad to be a part of it. I hope to see the best man win."

Yolanda Nelson will not say who she voted for, but she and many other voters on Tuesday did say they were excited about being able to have a say in which of the seven Democratic candidates will challenge George Bush in November. Results are expected after the polls close early Tuesday evening.