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Democrats Take Campaigns to 7 States Holding Next US Primary Elections - 2004-01-29

Democratic candidates seeking their party's nomination for president shifted their attention on Wednesday to seven states holding primaries next Tuesday, February 3. Voters in the U.S. South will have their first say next week in who they want to see win the Democratic nomination.

Fresh from his victory in New Hampshire, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is now focusing on something many observers say he has neglected over the past few months, winning the trust and confidence of southern voters. Mr. Kerry's spokeswoman in South Carolina, Holly Armstrong says she believes momentum is now shifting to Mr. Kerry in the state.

"We are getting a lot more phone calls," he said. "Of course the phone has been ringing off the hook. This has always been a busy office, but certainly more people are calling asking what they can do, how they can volunteer. Some of it is just the nature of being closer to election day here, but people are more engaged and looking for ways they can help."

Senator Kerry has already picked up key endorsements of leading Democratic political figures in the state such as Senator Ernest Hollings. He will be campaigning hard over the next few days to win the support of African Americans, who make up 30 percent of South Carolina's population, and about 50 percent of voters in the Democratic primary.

Richard Harpootlian, who was the state Democratic chairman here until last year, says political leaders he knows are moving away from former Vermont Governor, Howard Dean, General Wesley Clark, and, most importantly, North Carolina Senator John Edwards to support Mr. Kerry.

"I have talked to many of my Democratic friends in the last 24 hours and again this morning after the New Hampshire win yesterday and it seems to me that he has got momentum going in a big way," he said. "It is a good state for him because he does not have to win it. John Edwards however has to win it."

For his part Senator Edwards said in South Carolina on Wednesday that he believes he will win next week. Mr. Edwards predicts he will get a majority of the African-American vote as well as votes from those eager to show support for a southern candidate.

General Wesley Clark also says he expects to do well, gaining the support of many of the 400,000 veterans who live in South Carolina. Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, Ohio Congressman Denis Kucinich and civil rights activist Al Sharpton also say they are not about to give up the race despite John Kerry's surge in momentum.