Local News

South Carolina's African-American Voters Could Prove Critical To Edwards' Presidential Campaign

Posted August 29, 2003

— Recent polls show John Edwards trailing badly among Democrats vying for the White House. He has spent the better part of the summer campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two major tests in winning the nomination.

WRAL caught up with Edwards in South Carolina, a state that could be critical if he is to succeed. He will need South Carolina if Iowa and New Hampshire turn out the way everyone seems to think they will.

The Senator from Raleigh has two advantages in South Carolina -- it is the state where he was born, and he does well with African-American voters.

Getting the black vote will be the key to winning the state. But are candidates like Edwards doing enough to win that vote?

When asked how important South Carolina is to his campaign, Edwards said: "It is going to be a critical primary state.

"It is the first Southern state," he said. "It is the first state with a large African-American voter base. So I think South Carolina is enormously important."

For Edwards to win the black vote in South Carolina, his message will have to reach more than just his loyal supporters.

When asked what he is going to do to get that vote, he said: "I am going to do the same things I do for all the vote, which is lifting up and giving opportunity to more people in this country."

Edwards does not need those words to attract votes at an "Edwards For President" rally. He will need to attract votes in places like the West Greenville neighborhood a mile and a half away from the rally, where real people are dealing with real issues.

"Show me," said West Greenville resident Howard Bolden. "Don't tell me."

Bolden has heard campaign promises before. To get Bolden's vote, a candidate must leave the campaign bus downtown and take a stroll in Bolden's neighborhood.

"I have not seen anyone come through here with a megaphone saying: 'So-and-So's going to be down here,'" Bolden said. "But I would be willing to bet you they are up at North Main Street, where all the money is."

The money is not in Bolden's neighborhood, which he said has been neglected. Nor are the jobs there.

Until candidates come to communities like West Greenville and give people hope, the votes won't be there, either.

Bolden said it is not just the candidate's fault; people have to get out and vote if they want to see change. Bolden and his wife have started voter registration drives in the past. But when the campaign promises were not fullfilled, voter discontent set in, and things stayed the way they were.

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