Democrats face South Carolina test

The southern state has seen bitter clashes between front-runners Obama and Clinton.

    Whoever wins the South Carolina primary will gain
    crucial momentum ahead of "Super Tuesday" [EPA] 

    Appeal for calm


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    On Friday, Clinton appealed for calm between the two sides, telling ABC television channel that all parties needed "to take a deep breath".
    Both campaigns also withdrew television and radio advertisements attacking the other side.


    All candidates have taken care to court the state's African-American voters, who will prove crucial at the polls on Saturday.


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    Blacks make up about 50 per cent of the Democratic electorate in South Carolina and Obama, a senator for Illinois who would be the US's first black president if successful, has seen a surge in support in the community since winning the Iowa caucuses.


    Clinton has also campaigned vigorously in the state, with a campaign spokesman telling the Associated Press new agency that "we have made an important effort there".


    The former first lady's national campaign received an crucial boost on Friday after the New York Times newspaper endorsed her as presidential candidate.


    Race 'distraction'


    The issue of race has proved controversial in the campaign, however, and both the Clinton and Obama camps have been keen to distance themselves from claims that voters could be split along racial lines.


    "The candidates need to understand that this is not a personal battle between them, it's about what we should be doing for you"

    John Edwards, Democratic presidential candidate

    "It is not whether you are black or white or rich or poor, but that we are addressing the issues that matter," Rick Wade, a senior adviser for the Obama campaign, said.


    Edwards, who has yet to win a primary or caucus but has gained in recent polls in the state, rebuked both sides, saying their battles were detracting from the main issues.

    "The candidates need to understand that this is not a personal battle between them, it's about what we should be doing for you [the voter]," he told NBC.

    An emphatic win for any of the candidates would give them strong momentum in the lead up to Super Tuesday. 


    Also on Friday, Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio congressman, dropped out of the Democrat presidential race, saying he wished to focus on his congressional re-election campaign.


    Republican battle looms


    Meanwhile, the next Republican battle for the presidential nomination is set for Tuesday in the southern state of Florida.


    Recent polls have placed Jo

    hn McCain, the Arizona senator, and Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, in a close race for the state, with Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, trailing in third place, and Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, behind him.


    McCain was also endorsed as the preferred Republican presidential candidate by the New York Times newspaper.


    A defeat in the Florida race would spell disaster for Giuliani, who has staked his presidential campaign on capturing the state and who has campaigned there constantly in the past two weeks.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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