ORANGEBURG, S.C. – Presidential candidate John Edwards (search) on Wednesday rejected any notion of sharing the Democratic ticket with front-running rival John Kerry (search) -- unless he is at the top.
Asked on NBC's "Today" show if he would accept second place on the Democratic slate to face President Bush in the fall election, Edwards said: "I think you've got the order reversed. I intend to be the nominee."
Edwards said he would not be willing to be No. 2. "No, no. Final. I don't want to be vice president. I'm running for president," he said.
In a rally Wednesday at South Carolina State, Edwards told supporters he was delighted with his showing in New Hampshire, even though he placed fourth behind John Kerry, Howard Dean (search) and Wesley Clark (search).
"What an incredible two weeks we've had," said Edwards, who scored a surprising second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. "Now the job we'll have to do is to continue this momentum."
The Edwards campaign suffered a blow Wednesday when South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn (search), the dominant black politician in a state Edwards has said he must win, decided to endorse Kerry.
Edwards responded to the Clyburn endorsement by saying, "I think most of his supporters and his organization are with us."
Edwards declared his fourth-place finish in New Hampshire's primary just what he needed as he heads into his native South and beyond. He climbed from low in the pre-primary polls to finish just behind Clark. Both had 12 percent of the vote, with Clark earning more than 800 votes over Edwards.
Kerry won New Hampshire with 38 percent of the vote, and Dean came in second with 26 percent. Joe Lieberman (search) trailed Clark and Edwards in fifth place with 9 percent.
"In New Hampshire 10 days ago we were 20 points behind General Clark and look at what we've done," Edwards told cheering supporters Tuesday night. "And now we're going to take this energy and momentum we saw in Iowa and this energy and momentum we saw in New Hampshire and we're going to take it right through February 3rd."
The stakes are all on South Carolina next week for Edwards. He says he must win the state where he was born and where a recent poll showed him with a slight lead. He dismisses any discussions about what his future holds if he doesn't carry South Carolina.
But he faces an opponent who also lays claim to being the candidate from the South, Arkansas' Clark. Kerry also will be competing in South Carolina.
Despite spending a good part of the past year campaigning in New Hampshire and holding more than 100 town hall meetings, Edwards could not overcome the built-in advantages of the New Englanders.
"They're from right next door," Edwards said of Kerry and Dean. "They're expected to do that."
His tight race with Clark could portend another close contest next week. Besides South Carolina, the Edwards campaign also wants to do well in Oklahoma and possibly New Mexico and Missouri. TV ads are airing in South Carolina, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Edwards said contributions continued to flow into his campaign based on his Iowa finish.
Edwards said he would work hard in the coming week but would not forecast his prospects. "Beyond South Carolina I don't want to make any predictions, but I want to do well," he said.
Edwards headed to the airport for a flight to South Carolina immediately after speaking to supporters in New Hampshire. He planned to spend part of Wednesday campaigning in South Carolina, as well as in Oklahoma and Missouri, a big prize next week that became competitive after favorite son Rep. Dick Gephardt (search) dropped out after the Iowa caucuses.