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South Carolina, Nevada Vote in US Presidential Contests

Residents of the southern U.S. state of South Carolina are heading to the polls to select a Republican Party candidate for U.S. president, as voters in the western state of Nevada prepare for both Democratic and Republican nominating caucuses.

Public opinion polls suggest a tight race for Republican candidates in South Carolina. Arizona Senator John McCain, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney have each claimed one victory in earlier Republican primaries and caucuses.

McCain addressed fears of an economic recession during a campaign stop Friday. He said excessive government spending is part of the problem.

Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson has been trailing the leading candidates so far. He has tried to distinguish himself from the others, telling voters he has the toughest policies to fight illegal immigration.

In Nevada, polls also indicate a tight race for the Democratic contenders, New York Senator - and former first lady - Hillary Clinton, Illinois Senator Barack Obama and former South Carolina Senator John Edwards.

The presidential contenders are looking to build momentum before the critical primaries and caucuses on so-called Super Tuesday - February 5 - when 22 states will hold presidential nominating contests. Before then, South Carolina holds a Democratic primary next Saturday and Florida holds a Republican primary January 29.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.