South Carolina Democrats vote in White House race

South Carolina Democrats vote in White House race
# 26 January 2008 13:21 (UTC +04:00)
South Carolina Democrats cast votes on Saturday in a bitter presidential nominating race, with Barack Obama leading rival Hillary Clinton in polls and counting on heavy black support to carry him to a needed victory.
Record turnout of more than 300,000 is expected in the first Democratic primary in the South, where black voters are likely to make up about half of the electorate. Polls close at 7 p.m. EST, with results available soon afterward.
"I am absolutely convinced that we can win here, and we can win anywhere in the country," Obama, an Illinois senator, said at a late-night rally in Columbia that capped a week spent campaigning heavily across the state.
South Carolina is the latest test for Obama and Clinton, a New York senator, in their escalating battle for the right to represent the Democratic Party in November’s presidential election.
After two consecutive losses, in New Hampshire and Nevada, Obama needs a win on Saturday if he hopes to head into the February 5 "Super Tuesday" contests in 22 states with a realistic chance of victory.
The high stakes fueled a week of angry accusations, harsh advertisements and increasingly personal jabs between the two candidates, capped by a volley of attacks on Obama from Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Obama accused the Clintons of distorting his record and angrily fired back with a radio ad charging "Hillary Clinton will say anything to get elected."
"Campaigns are contentious," Hillary Clinton told reporters on Friday in Rock Hill, South Carolina. "There is a perfectly legitimate role for drawing contrasts, for pointing to people’s records, for correcting the record."
The other candidate in the Democratic race, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, chastised his two rivals for their squabbling and ran ads promoting himself as the grown-up in the contentious nominating battle.
A Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll on Saturday showed Obama with a 41 percent to 26 percent edge over Clinton in South Carolina, with Edwards in third place with 19 percent.
The lead for Obama, who would be the first black U.S president, is fueled by his 62 percent support among black voters, the poll found. Clinton and Edwards are tied among white voters at 35 percent, with Obama at 19 percent.
Clinton left South Carolina for two days during the week and headed to states with contests on February 5, leaving her husband to carry the campaign load here.
She will not be in South Carolina when the polls close on Saturday night -- either an acknowledgment of a likely loss or a bid to lower expectations about her showing.
"I have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow. We’re working as hard as we can to reach as many voters as possible," Clinton said in Rock Hill.
Obama and Edwards will visit polling places in South Carolina during the day for some last-minute cajoling.
All three candidates have portrayed themselves as the strongest leaders of a shaky economy. Clinton has hammered Obama for a lack of experience and highlighted her readiness to lead "from day one" in the White House.
But Obama questioned her judgment on Friday, noting her vote in 2002 to authorize the Iraq war and her failed stewardship of the health care overhaul during Bill Clinton’s administration.
"It’s not a question of being ready on day one," he said at an evening rally in Florence, South Carolina. "It’s a question of being right on day one."
The Republican presidential contenders, who held their primary in South Carolina last week, are focused on Florida’s Tuesday primary.
Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are in a tight race in Florida, polls show, after splitting contests last week -- McCain won South Carolina and Romney won Michigan.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is desperately seeking a good showing that could get him back in the race. Giuliani, who once led the Republican field in national polls, has slipped after he essentially pulled out of the early voting states to concentrate on Florida. /Reuters/

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