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South Carolina Provides Opportunity for Barack Obama


Voter turnout has been heavy in South Carolina, where Democrats are participating in a primary election that could give Senator Barack Obama a big boost in his quest for the party's presidential nomination. However, as VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Columbia, South Carolina, Hillary Clinton supporters are also out in force.

Demonstrators took to the street corners in front of polling stations, shouting support for their candidates and drawing shouts, cheers and honks from passing cars.

Chance Strickland is an Obama supporter who came over from the neighboring state of Georgia to help out. "Standing outside here on the street holding up signs and getting people to honk their horns at us shows they are also excited about Obama. But even if they are honking because they are excited about voting in general, at least they are excited about getting involved in the political process," he said.

There were also similar demonstrations for Hillary Clinton and former Senator John Edwards downtown and around some polling areas.

At one polling station two sisters came to cast their votes and effectively canceled each other out. Twenty-four-year-old Hillary Perkins says she favored her namesake, Hillary Clinton, even though she sees much to admire in Barack Obama. "He has a lot of good ideas, but I just don't think his methods of carrying it out are effective enough. Hillary has a more comprehensive plan," she said.

Her 20-year-old sister Brooke voted for Obama, even though she says her sister and others tried to convince her that his ideas, such as unifying the nation and ending the war in Iraq, are too grand. "Everyone calls them idealist and say it is never going to happen, but I think it is good to think big," she said.

The two sisters, who both study political science at a local university, say they so sometimes argue about politics at home. "A little bit, but we have learned not to talk about it.," she said.

Barack Obama is favored to win the South Carolina primary, but Hillary Clinton, backed by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, has campaigned hard here. Obama needs a substantial victory to slow the momentum she has gained by winning in both New Hampshire and Nevada in recent weeks. Obama's only victory was in the Iowa caucuses on January 3.

Also hoping for a good showing here is John Edwards, who was born in South Carolina and served for one term as senator from the nearby state of North Carolina. He could draw votes away from Obama, thereby reducing his margin of victory. Because some polls have shown Obama with as much as a 12-point lead, expectations for him are high and anything less than an overwhelming victory could weaken his appeal in the important Super Tuesday contest on February 5, in which 22 states will hold primaries and caucuses.