Local News

Edwards Hopes Southern Roots Help Court S.C. Voters

Posted February 13, 2003

— North Carolina Sen. John Edwards knows South Carolina's first-in-the-South Democratic primary will swing his bid for president.

"Is South Carolina pivotal? Yes," said Edwards, who announced Thursday he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.

Edwards has a certain advantage over other candidates as a South Carolina native. He was born of textile-working parents in Seneca. He and his family moved to Robbins, N.C., when Edwards was 12.

Edwards told The (Columbia) State he knows most voters don't know who he is, but his Southern background should help him in understanding South Carolina voters.

"When you grow up in small communities in the South, you're grounded," he said. "You have common sense. You tend to look at things in practical terms.

"The people I grew up with are just good people with just good old horse sense, and I believe that's what they want in their leaders."

But State Sen. Tom Moore, D-Aiken and a member of the Democratic National Committee, cautioned that being Southern doesn't necessarily mean momentum.

"There's no question that in the nominating process, South Carolina is the great crossroads that makes or breaks some folks," Moore said. "It certainly would raise some eyebrows in other states if Edwards didn't have a victory here."

U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean also have announced their bid for the Democratic nomination for president.

"By the end of this process before anyone votes, they are going to know all of us very well," Edwards said.

The Feb. 3 primary follows the caucuses in Iowa and the New Hampshire primary in January. The winner in South Carolina will leave with significant momentum going into the following weeks' big-state primaries.

The winner in South Carolina also shows his strength in the South, whose rejection of Al Gore in 2000 cost him the election.

"You've got to show you can win in the South," said state party Chairman Dick Harpootlian. "A victory here would give Edwards instant credibility."

State Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Hopkins, said if Edwards does not do well here, "this could be his graveyard."

Edwards said the most important thing for him right now is to "get my vision and my specific issues in front of the voters so they can judge them."


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