COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - Democrats are heading to the polls today in a primary election with a lot on the line, in a state where African Americans are expected to make up about half of the Democratic primary voters.
A win in South Carolina is crucial for Barack Obama, who could use a victory after second place finishes to Hillary Clinton in contests in New Hampshire and Nevada. The Senator from Illinois, who is hoping to become America’s first African-American president, is expected to do well with black voters.
Obama talked about the race factor late last night at a rally in South Carolina.
"After we won Iowa, everybody was so excited. Everybody said 'oh look at this. You know, African American, he's winning in a state with almost no African Americans,' and everybody's excited, and young people came out. And I think people started thinking 'well you know this isn’t hard' – but you know what, the status quo does not give up that easily,” said Obama.
White voters make up the other half of the Democratic electorate and they are expected to mostly split their votes between Clinton and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.
Edwards was born in South Carolina and won the state’s primary four years ago, when he was making his first bid for the White House. Edwards has been touting his native status and as camps Clinton and Obama have squabbled, Edwards has continued to talk about the issues and suggests he’s the only adult in the field.
Speaking to reporters this morning, Edwards said "I'm keeping moving no matter what, but I feel good about how things are moving right now here today. Uh, I feel there's a lot of energy behind my campaign."
The Clinton and Obama campaigns toned down the rhetoric the past two days, returning to the issues on concentrating their firepower on the Republicans rather than on each other.
“Anybody we nominate will be subjected to the full force and effect of the Republican Machine,” said Clinton. “I think they should be gracious and just say we have messed this thing up so much we are just gonna quit. And just say we shouldn’t be re-elected but I don’t think that is what they are gonna do.”
South Carolina’s important for another reason. With the candidates avoiding Tuesday’s Florida primary due to an intra party fight, South Carolina is the last big test for the Democrats before the coast to coast contests on Super Tuesday.
Turnout at one polling station in Columbia appears light so far this morning, but Democratic state party officials are predicting a record turnout by the end of the day. Democrats broke turnout records in the three contests held so far, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
Voters we spoke with as they departed the polling station said the possibility of making history with Obama or Clinton was one of the motivating factors for them to give up free time on a weekend to cast a ballot.
– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser
For the first time in many years a kind of movement I hoped to see has come to reality. Obama has brought a sense hope, unity, reconsiliation, and understanding among different etinic groups. I hope he will be nominated if race does not criple him. I like CNN also to reply Obams speech as much as Hillary's and other candidates. When ever you play the Hillary NEWS you are giveing her free ad. Please be fare.
I believe that Obama is all talk. I feel he won't do anything good for this country. Everyone's vote counts, so everyone should stop looking at personalities, and start listening to people's ideas. John Edwards shows he cares about the people, and his ideas are truely great. Remember that we will have this president for the next four years, so we should start listening to their ideas instead of lookng at their personalities. John Edwards helped the hurricane victim's in '05, and I didn't see Clinton or Obama down there helping. Is that the kind of president you want. A president who ignores the people, or John Edwards who helps the people. JOHN EDWARDS IS ALL FOR THE PEOPLE.
Following words describe the theme that Obama is trying to bring to his campaign: Vision, hope, honesty, character, judgement, unity, capability, and real change. What more do we need from our leader? Come on people, see the light!
obama, why can't you be AN AMERICAN, not an AFRICAN AMERICAN. We want a President that is President to AMERICANS, NOT AFRICAN AMERICANS, MEXICAN AMERICANS ETC. IF there is ever to be equality in this country then people of all races should think of themselves as AMERICANS, not African Americans, Latino Americans, Hispanic Americans, Mexican Americans, just plain AMERICANS. Not until they are willing to do that will there be equality.
To everyone out there saying John Edwards should drop out of the running, I say how very un-American of you! The media in this country managed to eliminate most of the other candidates, Biden, Dodd, Richardson, Kucinich, through their bias to the supposed "front runners" Obama and Clinton. And they have tried very hard to eliminate John Edwards in the same manner. Going so far as to label him a whiner when his campaign finally called them on the desparity in coverage. You might recall all the attention given to the squabble between the 2 front runners. (Real uniters, the two of them). Well, John Edwards is a fighter for what he believes in, and that is exactly the type of candidate I want. He has a comprehensive plan for the future of all Americans, and the will to fight to get things done. John Edwards is not only the best candidate, but the best hope for America. President John Edwards! Sounds good to me! Keep up the fight, John, all the way to the White House.