COLUMBIA, S.C. – John Edwards' (search) campaign to help the middle class may put him in position to pick up many of Dick Gephardt's (search) supporters in South Carolina, including labor groups and black voters.
With many residents angry about the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs, "Edwards becomes the person now who is in a position to speak to those," said Scott Huffmon, a Winthrop University political science professor.
Rep. Gephardt, who withdrew from the Democratic presidential race Tuesday, had highlighted his promise of more new jobs and fairer trade during his many campaign trips to the state.
Rep. Jim Clyburn (search), who had endorsed his longtime House colleague, predicted that Edwards would get a boost from the Missouri congressman's departure.
"They both have the same kind of resume," Clyburn said.
But while Clyburn said he didn't know whether he would make another endorsement before the state's Feb. 3 Democratic primary, on which Edwards has staked his candidacy, the push is on yet again for the coveted endorsement of South Carolina's only black congressman.
Such an endorsement could sway blacks, who are expected to make up as much as half of the electorate on Feb. 3.
Of the seven candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, Edwards, who finished a strong second in Iowa, has lavished the most attention on South Carolina, his native state.
He has made 18 visits in the past year and has stops scheduled Wednesday in Greenville and Friday in Columbia. He was the first to go on television with campaign commercials, in August, and has ads on black radio stations.
By contrast, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the Iowa winner, has not visited since Sept. 12 and does not expect to return until after Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. He also has run no campaign commercials here.
Kerry campaign spokesman David DiMartino said paid staff and volunteers are stuffing mail boxes and dialing Democrats to build support.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark and Sen. Joe Lieberman all have had TV ads up for weeks. In addition, these three candidates and Al Sharpton have campaigned often in the state.
"Skipping South Carolina has never been a consideration," DiMartino said. "Just because John Kerry is not there doesn't mean he's not campaigning there."
Clark and Sharpton campaigned separately here on Monday, each calling for the Confederate flag to be removed from the Statehouse grounds.
Dean has stepped up his efforts in the state in the past two months, opening five campaign offices, hiring 50 full-time field workers and running radio and newspaper ads.
Clark and Lieberman, both of whom passed up Iowa to concentrate on other contests, have their sights set on South Carolina as well.
Edwards, who was born in Seneca, S.C., and was a boy when his family moved to North Carolina, is counting on winning the primary. And his finish in Iowa on Monday should help, political consultants say.
"We had always thought South Carolina had to be his springboard. He went up and took a pretty big hop (Monday) night," said John Moylan, state chairman of Edwards' campaign. "The spring is already there."
Edwards is not taking the early momentum for granted, though, and is splitting the next seven days between South Carolina and New Hampshire.
"The people of South Carolina absolutely expect that their candidate will pay attention to them and not take them for granted," Moylan said. "I think candidates ignore South Carolinians at their own risk."