Edwards Looks to Shore Up S.C. Support

Sen. John Edwards (search) worked what he calls his backyard on Sunday, seeking to shore up support in a state whose Feb. 3 primary he has said he must win in his come-from-behind bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. 

Edwards, of North Carolina, crossed the state by bus, attending a two-hour service at a predominantly black church service in the morning in Columbia, greeting supporters at several stops as he wound his way to Charleston.

Talking to campaign workers here at this community near the coast, Edwards emphasized his childhood ties to the region and modest upbringing.

"My father worked in a mill all his life, so this is no academic thing for me," said Edwards, who was born in South Carolina and became a multimillionaire as a trial lawyer.

Of the seven states with contests on Tuesday, South Carolina is the only one where Edwards has a lead over the front-runner, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

"I don't know what's going to happen in the other states," he said at the West Side Cafe in Florence.

"I'll be back as your president and we're going to have some kind of party," he told supporters. His voice growing hoarse, Edwards said, "You can see I've been talking a little too much."

Edwards attended morning services at the predominantly black Bible Way Church in Columbia and was introduced to the congregation by Pastor Darrell Jackson.

"Will we vote?" Jackson asked those attending the service. A loud cheer went up.

"Vote for the candidate of your choice," Jackson said. But he told Edwards that, should he be elected president, he was invited back to the church to sing with the choir.

After the church service, Edwards spoke to churchgoers at a reception.

"We have work to do, don't we, brothers and sisters," he said, referring to the state's high poverty and jobless rates.

Jack Scoville, 53, a lawyer here, said Edwards should do well in South Carolina. "Many people will vote for him because he's from here. And a lot of Howard Dean supporters are reconsidering and coming his way."

Still, he said, a lot of blacks — who could represent up to half of those voting in South Carolina primary on Tuesday — remain split among Edwards, Kerry and Al Sharpton.