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KWAME HOLMAN: Even with the latest polls showing North Carolina Sen. John Edwards leading the pack for today’s South Carolina primary, he continued to campaign vigorously across the state. Rallying supporters in several towns, including Greenville and Clinton, and at a polling place in Columbia, the state capital. Edwards is predicting voters here will choose him over Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, winner in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Still Edwards insists his campaign has the resources to continue even if he loses South Carolina.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: I think actually our campaign is in as good a financial shape as any campaign. We may be in the best financial shape; if we’re not, we’re tied with one of the campaigns for being in the best financial shape. We’re in very good shape financially.
KWAME HOLMAN: With 55 delegates at stake in South Carolina, it’s a crucial battleground in the race for the Democratic nomination. But not the largest in terms of delegates being chosen today. That distinction belongs to Missouri, with 88 delegates. Arizona will pick 64; Oklahoma, 47; New Mexico, 37; Delaware, 23; and North Dakota, 22.
Pre-election polls show Kerry leading in five of those states, and in a dead heat with retired Gen. Wesley Clark and John Edwards in the sixth, Oklahoma. Clark has campaigned almost exclusively in Oklahoma, and was there today, telling veterans that those who have served their country will be taken care of during his presidency.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: We will take care of the men and women who are committed to serving this country in uniform, their families, and our veterans, that is my solemn pledge to you. Thank you.
KWAME HOLMAN: John Kerry spent this biggest primary day thus far in Washington state, anticipating its primary on Saturday. He addressed supporters in Spokane.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: And if you will join me in this fight, I pledge to you that every day as president I will stand up for common sense and mainstream American values. And together, on Nov. 2nd, we can send George Bush back to Texas —
KWAME HOLMAN: Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean also was in Spokane, where he took questions from an audience of supporters. One brought up the much-publicized, animated speech he gave after the Iowa caucus, and pointed to the media for blowing it out of proportion.
WOMAN: I was in Iowa. I was at that speech that he gave after the caucuses that night. I’m here to tell you there was nothing unpresidential about this man. It was nothing other than a massive amount of energy and love and appreciation. (Cheers)
HOWARD DEAN: All I can say is yahoo.
KWAME HOLMAN: Dean has said he does not expect to win any of today’s contests, having campaigned very little in the seven states, but pledged his campaign will move on. Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman is looking for his first victory in Delaware, where he campaigned this morning.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Seven states are voting, but I’ve got a dream that the people of the first state are going to make Joe Lieberman first, and it’s going to kick this campaign into high gear on the road to the White House. But it’s up to the voters now.
KWAME HOLMAN: Lieberman says he’s not considering dropping out of the race, even if he fails to win any of today’s contests. Congressman Dennis Kucinich spent the past few days campaigning in New Mexico. And the Rev. Al Sharpton continued to concentrate on South Carolina, which has the largest black voting bloc of today’s primary states.