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John Edwards Wins South Carolina Primary

Aired February 3, 2004 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to the start of a huge night in U.S. politics all across America. In the East, the South, the Midwest, and the West, voters are passing judgment on the Democratic presidential candidates. Seven states, 269 convention delegates, 12 percent of the number needed to win the presidential nomination.
Tonight's results could give Senator John Kerry incredible momentum, and the state of South Carolina could provide the answer. In fact, it is 7:00 p.m. on the East Coast right now. Polls have just closed in South Carolina. And based on CNN exit polls, CNN is now ready to project that John Edwards, the senator from North Carolina who was born in South Carolina, will win the South Carolina primary by what is being described as a comfortable margin.

We're told that Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts will score a solid second place. The rest of the field far behind. John Edwards projected to win the South Carolina primary. He said he must win. He will win.

Our correspondents are spread out all over the country tonight. We want to begin right in South Carolina. That's where CNN's Frank Buckley is joining us from John Edwards headquarters in Columbia.

Frank, tell us how excited they must be.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you might be able to hear it in the background right now. Supporters chanting, "Edwards. Edwards." Clearly very excited here in Columbia tonight about the income.

This was a state that John Edwards said he had to win. It was a do or die state. This is the state in which he was born.

He calls it a critical bellwether state, especially among southern voters, among rural voters, among African-American voters. We expect to hear from John Edwards later this evening -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Frank Buckley, we'll be checking back with you.

Let's go to Seattle, Washington right now. CNN's Kelly Wallace is standing by. That's at John Kerry campaign headquarters tonight -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I just talked to a senior Kerry campaign adviser who says it is no surprise that John Edwards won in South Carolina. This adviser is saying that Edwards outspent John Kerry in this state when it comes to advertising four to one.

The adviser going on to say the Kerry campaign expects to win more delegates tonight than anyone else. The expectation is that John Kerry could win five of the seven states. Something Kerry advisers say is unprecedented. They say this shows that John Kerry is viable nationally. This adviser saying John Edward, on the other hand, is a regional candidate -- Wolf.

All right. Kelly, we'll be getting back to you. Let's go back to South Carolina.

Joe Johns is standing by. He's covering Al Sharpton's campaign. Al Sharpton making a major push in South Carolina, not coming in first or second -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Al Sharpton visited three precincts here in Columbia today. He's expected to end up in this little ballroom tonight. He says he'll be happy for any delegates he can get to the Democratic National Convention. And one thing he says he will not do, that is drop out of the race no matter what happens tonight.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Joe, we'll be getting back to you.

Let's go out to Tacoma, Washington. CNN's Candy Crowley is standing by at Howard Dean's headquarters. They are looking down the road -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you said, they're looking down the road. No surprise to them. They don't expect to win any of the races here tonight. And probably they believe won't even place second anywhere. They are looking to Washington and Michigan coming up this Saturday, and, as Roy Neel, the new campaign chief said in a recent blog, it is too early for a coronation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, we'll be getting back with you.

Let's talk to Oklahoma City now. CNN's Dan Lothian is standing by over at Wesley Clark's campaign headquarters.

He hoped to do very well in South Carolina. Doesn't look like that's going to happen, Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Right now the Clark campaign is banking on the Southwest to get back in the race. A Clark aide telling CNN that they would like to get at least a first place finish and also some second place finishes here. Clark himself not getting into the game of the speculation of what if he doesn't win here in Oklahoma, saying that he believes that he can win.

Right now the race here in Oklahoma is very tight, a virtual three-way race. The campaign looking forward here from here to the South, heading to Tennessee and Virginia. A bus tour in Tennessee starting tomorrow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian, thanks very much. We'll be getting back to you.

Bruce Morton is over at Joe Lieberman's headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

Giver us a sense, what's the mood over there, Bruce?

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Lieberman had no hopes in South Carolina, didn't campaign in South Carolina. His campaign is in trouble and everybody here knows it. His hopes for this evening rest in Delaware.

BLITZER: All right, Bruce.

We'll be catching up with all of our correspondents clearly throughout the night.

Judy, a solid win for John Edwards in South Carolina. He said he must win. He will win.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: He said he had to win, Wolf. He did win. This makes John Edwards, coming out of tonight's primaries, depending on what happens everywhere else -- but likely John Edwards will be the chief challenger to John Kerry for the nomination. But we're basing that on one state, one primary win.

It is his home state. You could say, well, if he wasn't going to win there, where was he going to win? And the question is, he will look ahead, Wolf, to Tennessee and Virginia, which hold primaries one week from tonight.

But there will be a money issue for him. He doesn't have a lot of money on hand. Based on one win, is he going to be able to garner more support? This is still very much a John Kerry front-runner situation.

BLITZER: And the John Edwards people, Jeff Greenfield, will find out he very well in Iowa. Can't forget that.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Right. And I think actually we should not let South Carolina pass without noting who was the real big spender in South Carolina. As you alluded to, Wes Clark.

Since last June, General Clark put more than $1 million worth of ads in South Carolina, some $300,000 just in the last week. He was the top spender. And for Clark, an Arkansan who would hope to demonstrate strengths in the South, he may wind up being the big loser tonight, at least out of South Carolina, every bit as much as John Edwards is the big winner.

BLITZER: At least out of South Carolina.

GREENFIELD: Out of South Carolina.

BLITZER: All right.

Let's get Bill Schneider. Our senior political analyst has been looking at all the exit polls.

How did John Edwards do it?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: He did it with white voters in South Carolina. It was a strong friends and neighbors vote.

Remember that moment in the debate when Howard Dean talks about voters in the South will put Confederate flags up and Edwards defended them? Well, it looks like that ain't all.

Edwards, 50 percent among white voters. There were 54 percent of the voters in South Carolina today. Kerry 28, and Sharpton only two percent.

What about the African-American vote? They were almost half the voters in South Carolina. Edwards carried them, too, but by a very narrow margin, 37 percent to Kerry's 34.

Kerry did very well among those African-American voters. They are very partisan Democrats, and Kerry appeals to partisan Democrats.

The figures that's impressive here is Al Sharpton. He's of course from New York, but he was relying on that African-American base which is very powerful in South Carolina. Nearly half the vote. But they only gave him 18 percent of the vote. Remember, this is a state that went twice for Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988.

Moderates, another key to a South Carolina victory for John Edwards. Fifty percent. For John Edwards, much lower for both Kerry and Sharpton. Moderate voters, of course, very important in the South, where liberals are few and far between. And this is an indication that if the nominee wants to appeal to moderate voters around the country and, particularly, in the South, John Edwards seems to be the candidate who knows how to do that.

BLITZER: The fact, though, that he was born there and represents another Carolina, North Carolina, clearly significant among a lot of these voters, the Democratic voters in South Carolina.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. It is what you call a friends and neighbors vote. He was familiar. He talked a great deal about understanding the problems of the people in South Carolina, of having grown up in a mill town. He's from there.

So that there was a familiarity that they found very comfortable. What we found is the more partisan you were as a Democrat, the more you voted for John Kerry. The less partisan you were, the more you voted for your friend and neighbor, John Edwards.

BLITZER: All right. Bill, we're going to continue to get those numbers for our viewers. Stand by. Our CNN Election Express bus is parked right now in Columbia, South Carolina. Our "CROSSFIRE" co-hosts, Paul Begala and Bob Novak, are onboard watching all of this come in.

First to you, Paul. What do you make of this John Edwards win in South Carolina?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN "CROSSFIRE": Well, it is a big win for John Edwards. He has, at least here in the South, stopped John Kerry's momentum, which was enormous coming out of Iowa and then New Hampshire. He shows that he can take on the front-runner and beat him, at least in the South.

Tomorrow, I'm told the Edwards campaign will begin advertising in Virginia and Tennessee, the next two southern states to have primaries. But they have a big decision to make now at Edwards' campaign headquarters. They need to set the champagne aside and decide if they want to fight in Michigan, the heart of the industrial Midwest.

Maybe his economic message will play well there. But that's not home cooking for southern boy, John Edwards. That's a tough call this campaign is going to have to make tonight.

BLITZER: Bob Novak, should the Edwards campaign start corking the champagne bottles?

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN "CROSSFIRE": I think they need a little champagne. It will liven them up a little bit. But I do believe that tonight was the night that John Kerry could have done an extraordinary thing. And that is sweep all seven of these, have nine for nine, and then it would have been all over. We could go home.

Now there is a smidgen of hope that this thing with John Edwards -- that this thing will continue. But John Kerry winning five out of seven of these, as he apparently has, is really an amazing feat. He is the clear front-runner. And John Edwards, however, has established himself as the overwhelming choice to be John Kerry's running mate if he's nominated.

BLITZER: All right. Bob and Paul, stand by. We have a lot of numbers to crunch. A lot more states to look at as well.

Carlos Watson is here joining us.

Carlos, as you take a look at South Carolina, the African- American vote was very significant.

CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: More than 40 percent. Not surprising. What's significant here is that John Edwards won not only among white voters, but did better than expected among African- American voters, especially since John Kerry had the endorsement of the lone member of the House of Representatives who is African- American, Jim Clyburn.

And so we thought that for John Kerry that might openly (ph) provide the margin. It didn't.

Who has a big smile on his face today, Wolf, after this South Carolina victory by John Edwards? Not just John Edwards, but now Howard Dean.

Howard Dean looks ahead and says, ah, there's hope for me. As Bob said, it looked like John Kerry was going to run away with this, but he won't go nine for nine. We don't know how well he'll do, but he certainly won't go nine for fine.

BLITZER: Unlike the other states, Iowa and New Hampshire, the states tonight, most of them, have significant minority representation and significant minority voters. And that could be an important factor throughout the night.

WATSON: Five out of seven have at least a quarter of the population is minority. Some Hispanic in the West, like Arizona and New Mexico, others significant Native American population, like Oklahoma. And others obviously significant African-American.

BLITZER: This election beginning to look like all of America.

Carlos, thanks very much.

As we've said, South Carolinians aren't the only Democrats having their say today. Primaries and caucuses are going on in six other states.

Once again, Judy Woodruff is joining us with a look at what's ahead/

What can we expect tonight, Judy?

WOODRUFF: Wolf, 269 delegates are at stake tonight. We've been talking, of course, about the importance of South Carolina. But now let's also look at the six other states up for grabs. Here's the breakdown.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): Aside from South Carolina's 45 delegates, polls will close at the top of the hour at 8:00 p.m. Eastern in four more states, putting another 143 delegates in play: Delaware, Missouri, North Dakota and Oklahoma.

Missouri, with 74 delegates at stake, is tonight's biggest prize. Delaware has 15 delegates up for grabs. North Dakota is holding caucuses for that state's 14 Democratic delegates.

Finally, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, polls close in Oklahoma with 40 Democratic delegates. And then at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, polls close in two more states, Arizona and New Mexico. Arizona Democrats will hand over 55 delegates, and in the New Mexico caucuses, 26 delegates are at stake. All together tonight, 269 delegates at stake in seven states.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF: So Wolf, if my math is right, 45 down and only 224 to go by 9:00 tonight.

BLITZER: All right. Well, 9:00 Eastern, that is.

WOODRUFF: That's right.

BLITZER: That's in the next couple of hours. We should know a lot. All right. Stand by. I want to bring back Jeff Greenfield, our senior analyst.

Jeff, we've started off each election night with a set of four questions that we hope you will be able to answer by the end of the night.

GREENFIELD: Four questions we hope no viewer will pass over. Pardon the pun. And these are the ones we're looking at tonight.

First, the race factor. As we have heave been talking about already, after two virtually all white contests, we now have a substantial black population in South Carolina and Missouri and Delaware, and substantial Latino and Native American populations in New Mexico and Arizona and, to some extent, Oklahoma. Apart from the Sharpton factor, will race matter?

The second question, what about more conservative and centrist Democrats? Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats are liberal. In tonight's mostly red state battles, Democrats are more centrist. Will that make any difference? It seems to have helped John Edwards and given him an argument to move on.

Third, what we were calling the New Hampshire bounce. After spending no money in any of tonight's states, John Kerry moved into the lead or close to it in almost all of these states. We'll that hold? We'll let you know in a couple hours.

And finally, will anyone drop out? We saw candidates in New Hampshire celebrating nine percent and 12 percent of the vote as some kind of triumph. This time, only John Edwards laid down a public marker in South Carolina. He has apparently made that marker. He can stay in.

Howard Dean has already dismissed today's contest. So the question, will General Clark or Senator Lieberman stick around even if they come up empty tonight?

BLITZER: Those are important questions. We'll get the answers in the next few hours. But the Edwards win right now in South Carolina, he said he had to win, he won. That sets the stage, at least for a lot of people, to think he's the main challenger for John Kerry.

GREENFIELD: Well, you know how eagerly I like to anticipate events we don't know yet, like can Dean come back. But I do think the argument he's going to make is, look, I can win everywhere John Kerry can win. But he can't win where I showed strength, among more moderate, more conservative Democrats, more rural Democrats, that the party has had a horrible time winning in recent years.

WOODRUFF: Wolf, the question I have is, what is going to be the rationale for John Edwards? Because up until now, he has run a largely positive campaign. He has been loathe to draw distinctions between himself and Senator Kerry. If he is going to go toe to toe with John Kerry, he's going to have to start taking the issues, he's going to have to start talking about trade or about whatever other issues.

We have not been hearing about issues out on the campaign trail. It has largely been an electability election so far. Who is the best equipped to go up against George Bush in November.

BLITZER: And as the field narrows, the tension might increase.

WOODRUFF: Exactly.

BLITZER: All right. Judy and Jeff, stand by.

We're also listening to what the voters -- in particular, minority voters -- are saying. Our Ed Lavandera is in Phoenix. Our Suzanne Malveaux is in Richmond, Virginia.

Suzanne, what are you able to bring us? You are speaking to voters there on the scene.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we are at the beautiful (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, and we're expecting some very lively conversation. I'm with a group of undecided African-American voters who, of course, are going to be listening to every word of all of the candidates this evening to talk about the issues that are important to them.

Why? Because in seven days they're going to have to make that critical decision who they're going to vote for. Believe me, Wolf, if we get some decisions tonight we'll get back to you.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to get back to you.

Ed Lavandera is in Phoenix.

Give us a sense of the voters that you are with.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, here the polls in Arizona will be closing in a little less than two hours. We have four people here so far who have already voted today.

Just to give you an idea of what we've got here, we have two Kerry supporters, a Clark supporter and a Howard Dean supporter. We'll let you know throughout the night which one of these folks voted for each of these different candidates.

But again, we also anticipate here very lively conversation as to why these voters chose the way they did today as well. And a lot of the folks I have talked to here in Arizona are really getting the sense that Arizona will be one of those states that plays a huge factor in the November election. Many of the people here feeling like they are getting a lot of attention from all of these candidates, not just the Democratic candidates, but from George Bush as well. So many voters here in Arizona feel they will be able to have a great influence come the general election in November.

We'll be here throughout the night -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Ed. We're going to get back to you. Fifty- five delegates at stake in Arizona as well.

I want to remind our viewers what we reported at the top of the hour. John Edwards, the 50-year-old senator from North Carolina, projected to win the South Carolina primary. John Edwards wins comfortably in South Carolina based on our exit polls.

We're also learning that John Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts, will come in a solid second. The rest of the field far behind.

We're just getting started here at CNN election headquarters. Six more states yet to close up. Next, we'll go in depth with our voter panels and find out what the Virginians are looking for in a presidential hopeful.

Much more coverage. We're only getting started.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage. Let's show our viewers, once again, John Edwards. The important news for him, South Carolina, the primary, we're projecting John Edwards will win comfortably in South Carolina, a win he said he needed in order to continue in this race.

John Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts, the front-runner will come in a solid second. The rest of the field far behind.

Let's go over to John Edwards campaign headquarters in Columbia, South Carolina right now.

Frank Buckley is standing by -- Frank.

BUCKLEY: Well, I'll tell you, Wolf, this is going to make John Edwards feel a lot better. He has been suffering from bronchitis out on the campaign trail. He's been on antibiotics. I'll tell you, after this win he's going to feel much better, and so does this campaign.

They will be relieved about this victory here in South Carolina. Senator Edwards saying over and over that he would win here. He also said he must win here. And now, apparently, he has won in the state in which he was born.

The campaign will feel good about this on a number of levels. The first one, that he just won. Now he's not just the guy who came in second in Iowa, did OK in New Hampshire. Now they can say he's electable, he has won in a state that has a cross section of people, that is very diverse, that they will say it is a critical bellwether, as the senator said today.

It's a state that has a significant African-American population. This is a population that any Democrat has to reach out to. It has a moderate conservative Democrat base here. And he was able to reach out to those folks. And the campaign would say, look, these are the people that we have to reach in a general election.

But there are a couple of questions that will be on the table tonight, Wolf. One, is he a regional candidate? The campaign would say, no, he's not a regional candidate. And the way they would prove that is they would say he's won in North Carolina, he's won in South Carolina. And in South Carolina, he's won among this sort of diverse group.

And secondly, there will be the question about, is there enough gravitas? Is this someone who can stand up against a George W. Bush in a general election?

What the campaign would say about that is that America right now wants someone who has enough experience, who knows how Washington works, but who isn't one of the Washington insiders. But that will be one of the questions that will be interesting to see as we examine intake exit polling tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Did you get any indication, Frank, from the Edwards people when he might emerge and make some sort of statement to his supporters?

BUCKLEY: Well, we expect that he might come out as early as the next few minutes. But we're expecting -- we thought that he would come out around 8:00 tonight, 8:00 Eastern. But I've been hearing that he may come out earlier than that. So we'll just have to hang on.

BLITZER: We'll see. Frank Buckley, we'll be getting back to you.

We're getting actual votes that are beginning to come in right now. Take a look at this.

With three percent of the votes in South Carolina now reporting, John Edwards will win. He's getting 45 percent of the votes so far, 27 percent for John Kerry. Al Sharpton down at nine percent.

Look at this. Wes Clark at eight percent, Howard Dean at six percent, Joe Lieberman only one percent.

Remember, this is only with three percent of the actual votes coming in. We don't know which parts of the state those three percent of the votes are coming in from.

Let's go out to Kelly Wallace. She's in Seattle, Washington, covering John Kerry's campaign.

Kelly, do you have some more information? What's happening out there?

WALLACE: Well, Wolf, John Kerry was in Spokane earlier today. And he is on his way now, we believe, here to Seattle, where he will be watching the election returns.

Kerry's advisers, though, are really downplaying John Edwards' victory. They say it is no surprise. Earlier in the day, as we talked to advisers, they say that John Edwards spent more time in South Carolina than John Kerry and that he outspent John Kerry when it comes to advertising four to one.

The senator himself, interestingly enough, was asked earlier today if he felt he needed to win in South Carolina and in Oklahoma. Here's what he told his reporters aboard his plane earlier today.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Absolutely not. Not in the least. Particularly -- let's see what the returns are. Let's see how they come back.

I'm running a national campaign, and I've been in all the states. And I haven't, therefore, been able to be everywhere as much. I noticed that one candidate was in two states only for the entire week. I've been everywhere.


WALLACE: Hard to hear there a bit, Wolf. But the message from Kerry's campaign is that they believe the senator will win the most delegates tonight. They expect five out of seven states where he will be victorious. And they say he is the national candidate, viable across the nation.

And again, we've heard this. They are now calling John Edwards a regional candidate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens. Kelly, we'll be getting back to you.

Bill Schneider is crunching more numbers based on our exit polls. What are we learning, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: One word, Wolf, populism. It's an ancient southern theme that goes back to Huey Long in Louisiana and his campaign, "Every Man a King," which I could sing for you upon request.

But the idea of populism is John Edwards ran on two nations, the rich and the poor. Among those who said the top issue in their vote was the economy -- and that was almost half of all South Carolina Democrats -- Edwards beat Kerry by better than two to one. A very strong vote for that populace message. A second populace quality, people who said they were looking for a candidate who cares about people like themselves. Again, populism. That was an Edwards vote. Fifty-seven percent for Edwards, 18 percent for Kerry.

That populace message was very potent in South Carolina. It works around the South. But Edwards now has got to prove he can carry it outside the South.

Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter both got the Democratic nomination by showing they were not just regional candidates, that they could win and carry the message outside the South as well. Something Edwards now has to do.

BLITZER: All right. Bill, stand by.

Paul Begala is down in Columbia, South Carolina. He's got some information. He would like to weigh in as well.

Paul, tell us what you have.

BEGALA: Well, it's interesting, Wolf. This afternoon., Congressman Jim Clyburn came on "CROSSFIRE." He supports John Kerry, but he predicted the Edwards victory. It shows he knows his state pretty well.

But he was being a little modest. He actually delivered the African-American vote for his man, John Kerry. Where Kerry fell down, actually, was with white voters. That's where, as Bill Schneider showed you, that's where Edwards' economic message really worked hard -- or worked well.

But at least the Kerry campaign I think can take a little solace in the notion that they came into a state in the South with a high African-American population and performed well among those southern African-Americans. Those are one of the real keys to being nominated by my part for the presidency, is to win among African-Americans in the South. And so at least Kerry can claim that little bit of solace here in South Carolina.

BLITZER: Paul, stand by. We're going to show our voters some more numbers that are coming in, actual numbers. Take a look at this.

Right now, with, let's see, 13 percent of the vote coming in, the numbers are coming in rather rapidly from South Carolina, John Edwards the winner. He is showing with 13 percent, 46 percent of the vote. Twenty-nine percent for John Kerry.

Al Sharpton coming in with nine percent. Wes Clark at eight percent. Howard Dean at only five percent. Joe Lieberman only at two percent.

Donna Brazile knows a lot about Democratic Party strategy. Give us your sense. This win for John Edwards in South Carolina, can this give him the kind of momentum to really challenge John Kerry down the road? DONNA BRAZILE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: No question. I think what John Edwards was able to do in stopping the Kerry momentum in South Carolina, holding General Clark down -- it appears to be less than 15 percent -- stopping Al Sharpton from grabbing the entire black vote, that John Edwards is now credible. He can go out there and hopefully try to revive his campaign again in Virginia, Tennessee, and some of the other states.

But I agree. He has to go out there and try to win a non- southern state, and also to put together a campaign organization in California and Ohio and those other big states that will come up on March 2. Otherwise, Kerry will continue to overtake him.

BLITZER: You've seen him campaign. He delivers a pretty good stump speech.

BRAZILE: Next to Al Sharpton, I think he's the best preacher in the bunch. He's been able to combine an economic populace message with a message that resonated, I believe, to both voters. So John Edwards, he is really catching fire, I think, tonight, with this tremendous victory in South Carolina.

BLITZER: All right. Donna, stand by. We're going to get back to you as well.

We're going to take another quick break. When we come back, we'll check in with voters. We'll also go over to Al Sharpton's campaign headquarters. Our Joe Johns standing by. There must be some significant disappointment down there.

But you know what? We'll wait and see precisely what's happening. More of our special coverage, primaries and caucuses, lots more coming up.


BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN election headquarters. We've watching John Edwards right now. John Edwards, the winner of the South Carolina primary by our exit poll projection. The senator from North Carolina who was born in South Carolina, 50 years old, will win the South Carolina primary.

The Massachusetts front-runner, John Kerry, will come in a solid second. The rest of the field way behind. Let's look at some actual votes. We're getting in now the votes coming in rather quickly. With 18 percent of the vote, John Edwards showing 46 percent right now. John Kerry at 29 percent. Al Sharpton down at 9 percent. Wes Clark, 7 percent. Howard Dean only 5 percent. Joe Lieberman at 3 percent of the vote. Only a few minutes ago, John Edwards who's been watching these returns, spoke out in Columbia, South Carolina.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My message is about lifting all people up and giving them a chance to do what they're capable of doing. I don't use labels. I think it is a message that will work. People believe in hard work and responsibility should give you a chance to do well.


BLITZER: A young woman behind Senator Edwards, his young daughter, college-age daughter.

Joe Johns is over at Al Sharpton's headquarters also in Columbia, South Carolina. Joe, Al Sharpton said this was an important state for him and he would do well.

JOHNS: It certainly was a very important state for him, Wolf. Al Sharpton has crisscrossed the state, more than 30 visits here. He has leaned very heavily on the African American community, visiting numerous black churches. He had the crowds on their feet. The question always was, were the people that came out to see him actually vote for him? Sharpton has argued again and again and again that in his view the whole point of this is to get enough delegates to go into the convention and influence the platform. Let's hear from him. What he said earlier today about the issue of delegates and the Democratic National Convention.


REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that getting delegates is what matters. When you get to the convention, it's who has the delegates. I think that clearly that is the goal, that is the strategy, and I think that's what we're going to achieve.


JOHNS: So the question, of course, how many delegates will he, in fact, get this evening, if any? It is very important to him, but he was not willing, at least so far, to say how many delegates is actually successful for him. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Joe Johns over at the Reverend Al Sharpton's campaign headquarters in Columbia, South Carolina.

JOHNS: I want to remind our viewers that in 25 minutes, three more states will close their polls in Delaware, North Dakota where there's a caucus as well as in Missouri. 25 minutes from now we'll be able to report more on what's going on with the polls in those three states closing down.

Starting today, America's racial and cultural diversity, of course, become a major factor in the presidential campaign as we've just seen in South Carolina. Unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina, Delaware and Missouri have significant African-American populations. Our Suzanne Malveaux is in Richmond, Virginia with a group who will vote one week from today -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Wolf, it really is an excellent panel because you're talking about all undecided, all part of that critical voting block, African-American community. Also all very outspoken, which is a good thing. Of course, they have a decision to make in seven days.

First of all, let me just ask, are you still all undecided?


MALVEAUX: OK. Good. Let me start off with Reverend Michael Jones (ph), who is the pastor of this church here. What is it that you need to hear tonight to convince you that this is the right person for the job?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, not just issues they are trying to share but the reality of what platform they're bringing to the table and whether they have the ability to beat George Bush. That's my main concern. Because regardless of what issue Edwards or Kerry or Sharpton has, if they don't have the wherewithal to really take the Democratic party and have a viable shot at beating Bush, the issues really don't matter.

MALVEAUX: Sandra Johnson (ph), who like many Americans, is in a difficult time right now. You are unemployed. You recently lost your job. You are working, trying hard to make ends meet. You told me before that even your 17-year-old daughter makes more at a fast food restaurant than you do on commissions in your own job. What are you looking for, because I know one of the really important issues that keeps coming up is jobs, jobs, jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How will the candidates, you know, solve the unemployment or the employment issues? What's out there? How are you going to help people to be able to survive.

MALVEAUX: Is there anybody who is speaking to you now who you hear that from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. No one. Not regarding the jobs issue.

MALVEAUX: Sheridan Johnson, I want to ask you, is Reverend Al Sharpton, is he the answer to this? We've taken a look at the polls, we've seen how he's performing. Obviously, he does not seem to be doing very well within the African-American community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think Reverend Sharpton is the answer. I think Reverend Sharpton should get out of it. I think he should take his votes and pair up with somebody that's viable that can win. Reverend Sharpton, to me, is just there to get -- to watch somebody's pan and they watch his back later on in the process.

MALVEAUX: Now Sheridan is a former marine. You are looking for work. Is there anybody who disagrees with what he has just said, that they believe Al Sharpton doesn't stand a chance? He should get out? Does he play a significant role in this election?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he does. I think Al has energized this whole thing, as far as I'm concerned, Al made the other candidates come up with different approaches to ideas that really affected most people, and even though he might not win, he has energized the debate. If he was, I think, of the other persuasion, he would be way further up than he is now. MALVEAUX: And you, Collins Howland (ph), you are a retired postal worker. What is the most important thing? What are you listening for at this time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm listening for some way to do something about healthcare, prescription drugs and things. My mother-in-law is 87 years old. Her prescription is $140 for 30 pills. I think something really should be done about this. Being a retiree, that's the focus we have in our retirees meetings month by month.

MALVEAUX: Thank you very much. I'm sorry -- we've run out of time already. We'll let you go. Wolf, we'll come back to you. Lots of opinions. We will look closely at all the candidates this evening.

BLITZER: And Suzanne, one week from today, Virginia, an important race in Virginia, which we will be covering. We'll get back to you.

Donna Brazile, I get the sense from that small group of African- Americans in Virginia that, like white voters, electability for these Democrats is critical. They won't someone, anyone, that they think can beat President Bush.

BRAZILE: They are at the top of the line when it comes to the anybody but Bush camp. The African-American vote has been up for grabs now for the last six weeks. These candidates understand that these are the most reliable voters out there. If you energize the black vote, they will come out in record numbers and they could help somebody get over the top.

BLITZER: All right. Donna, stand by. Bill Schneider, you are looking at these numbers as well. African-American voters in South Carolina. You know a lot that we don't know, because you've been studying, you've crunching the exit poll numbers.

SCHNEIDER: People talk about the black vote as if it was a block vote. We are seeing evidence tonight that it's not block vote. Blacks vote just like everyone else. They are very partisan Democrats. They want to vote for a winner. Only 18 percent in South Carolina voted for Al Sharpton, far below what Jesse Jackson got. Jesse Jackson, led the crusade to get their place at the table. They've been there, done that. They are affected by the same forces other voters are affected by, and as Donna just said, they are looking for a winner, someone who can beat Bush. Partisanship in this case took great priority over race.

BLITZER: All right, Bill stand by.

Jeff Greenfield, what's your sense?

GREENFIELD: To show you the difference that we've seen already. Back in 1988 when Jesse Jackson won eight primaries and caucuses got 6.5 million votes, got the overwhelming majority of black votes. And the point there is they knew he wasn't going to be nominated, but they wanted Jackson as their tribune at that convention. If South Carolina is any indication, the mood among African-American voters, like the mood around most Democrats, is it is a world of difference.

BLITZER: Stand by, everyone. We're going to take another quick break. Let's take look, by the way before we do, at the votes that we're getting, actual votes coming in right now.

Look at this. In South Carolina where John Edwards will go on and win, so far with a quarter or so of the vote actually in, 46 percent going with the senator from North Carolina, was born in South Carolina, John Edwards. John Kerry coming up with almost 30 percent, 29 percent. Sharpton, Wes Clark, Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman a distant third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. We'll continue to watch those actual numbers.

We're standing by, looking ahead to the top of the hour. Democratic contests will end in four more states, Delaware and Missouri, North Dakota and Oklahoma. Also, our vote track analysis of results so far. A high tech breakdown of voting trends based on where people live. This is fascinating material for everyone who wants to know how the American people are voting tonight, at least these Democrats trying to select a nominee. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Voting ends in four more states in 15 minutes, at the top of the hour, Delaware, Missouri, North Dakota and Oklahoma. We'll get those results coming up.

South Carolina the voting ended at 7:00, 45 minutes or so ago Eastern time. John Edwards the winner in the South Carolina primary. John Kerry coming in a solid second, but take a look at the actual votes. 30 percent actual votes reporting, 45 percent so far for John Edwards, 29 percent for John Kerry, Al Sharpton, Wesley Clark, Howard Dean, and Joe Lieberman way, way behind.

Jeff Greenfield has been taking a look at South Carolina. He has a new machine, vote track to tell us how the voting resulted.

GREENFIELD: Yes. I'm sure I'm going to blow this place up before the primaries end, but not just. This SpatiaLogic Vote Trak tells us where specificly votes are coming from. And as we have said, we are looking closely at where African-Americans are in a majority and how they vote. If you look at this map, there are 12 counties in South Carolina where blacks are a majority. Many of them -- and I'm doing this in a kind of casual way -- form the Congressional district, the Sixth Congressional District of Congressman Jim Clyburn, he is the powerful African American congressman who backed John Kerry.

You would think Al Sharpton would be running well in those counties. If we look at the vote that is have come in so far through the magic of Vote Trak, look, there's not a single one of these counties we have votes where Al Sharpton is in the lead. In fact, Senator Edwards is doing very well in the black majority counties. And we expect you will see John Kerry or John Edwards carrying the counties, Al Sharpton far behind. And Wolf, if this had been 1988 with this machine, you would have seen Jesse Jackson would have dominating all of those African-American counties. Another sign of how the voters are changing.

BLITZER: Black and white, among these Democrats, they want to do whatever they can to get somebody that they think can beat President Bush.

GREENFIELD: That appears to be what our exit polls and our real votes so far is telling us.

WOODRUFF: Which raises the question, what is the difference between Jesse Jackson as a campaigner and Al Sharpton as a campaigner?

We have seen Jesse Jackson on the stump. He pours his heart into it. He's at the pulpit, whether it is a church or meeting hall and throwing his entire body and passion. Al Sharpton, I find, surprisingly restrained on the stump. You often see him wearing a two or three-piece suit. He is dressed up. I don't know whether it's the fact he's from New York and campaigning in other part itself of the country, but I don't see the passion, I think, from Al Sharpton.

BLITZER: All right, Judy, stand by.

Frank Buckley is over at John Edwards campaign headquarters, a very happy headquarters in Columbia, South Carolina. Give us a sense of what's happening right now, Frank.

BUCKLEY: Well, Wolf, I'm told by one of the campaign aides that Senator Edwards is en route at this point. They were expecting him to speech in just a few moments here. This room that was virtually empty about an hour ago, just a bunch of reporters and photographers is now full of supporters. A great deal of excitement. This what they were hoping to see. This was the outcome they were all hoping for. We are told by a campaign aide that the senator is excited, fired up and ready for next week. And in fact, we'll all be get on a charter, all of the traveling press and traveling to Tennessee, and tomorrow also traveling to Virginia. Those are contests that are taking place, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- Wolf.

BLITZER: One week from today, Virginia and Tennessee. Two a more important contest. Frank, we'll be getting back to you, of course, once Senator Edwards emerges. We'll go there to hear his comments live.

Bill Schneider continues take a look at the exit poll numbers.

What are you seeing, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: What we are seeing is an interesting a difference between self described independents and Democrats. South Carolina allows both to vote in the Democratic primary. Here is the vote among independents. These people have no partisan motivation. It was very heavy for John Edwards. He's a native son. He's a southerner. Clearly his personal appeal predominate and allowed him to dominate the independent category. That's a crucial voting category come November, and he can get those voters, particularly in the south. Among Democrats, however, John Kerry, he didn't beat Edwards but did substantially better. He did 10 points better among Democrats. Among partisan Democrats whose motivation is to beat President Bush, that's where Kerry built up his support and did better. We're going to see that in primary after primary tonight. The more partisan you were, the more likely you were to vote for John Kerry.

BLITZER: All right, Bill, we'll be getting back to you.

CNN's Candy Crowley is covering Howard Dean's campaign, had been riding very, very high not that long ago. A disappointing result in South Carolina. Candy, tell our viewers why he's in Tacoma, Washington, of all places, right now.

CROWLEY: A look ahead. I heard Kelly Wallace say earlier that John Kerry was in Washington as a sign of confidence. Howard Dean is in Washington as a sign of he doesn't think anything good is going to happen tonight actually. They don't expect any firsts. He's in Washington because Washington and Michigan are the next up, this Saturday. He believes he has a better chance in both those states. So he's been working and in fact being in Michigan and as well as Wisconsin, which is on the 17th.

So this is a campaign that's saying, look, at the end of tonight, only 10 percent of the delegates will have been apportioned. And we have 90 percent to go. Dean is talking about March. Certainly, they say, they have got the money to do it. He took in about $3 million post-Iowa. So they say they have enough money to keep going, that they have the will to keep going. But as you know full well, Wolf, you say those sorts of things because, well, what else can you say? It may well be that this time next month we'll still be here with Howard Dean and he is pushing on. But we do know that a month ago at this point he was leading in most of the polls. He knows well that there can always be reversals of fortunes. And he says he is in this and fighting for delegates.

BLITZER: That's the beauty of politics. You never know. One day, two days, a long time in the nature of this kind of context.

Let's take a look at some of the votes that are coming in now, the actual votes in South Carolina. Look at this. South Carolina primary with 34 percent, a third of the vote now officially in. Forty-five percent going to John Edwards, the senator from North Carolina; 30 percent for John Kerry, a 15-point spread. Only 9 percent for Al Sharpton, 8 percent for Wes Clark, 5 percent for Howard Dean, 3 percent for Joe Lieberman.

We're looking ahead to the top of the hour, or nine minutes or so. Democratic contests will end in four more states. Delaware, Missouri, North Dakota and Oklahoma. We'll be standing by to see what's happening there.

We're going to take a quick break. Take a look at the St. Louis Arch as we take this break. St. Louis, Missouri. Missouri. We should get some results coming in shortly.


BLITZER: Want to remind our viewers, in about five minutes, polls will close in four more states -- Delaware, Missouri, North Dakota and Oklahoma. We'll be getting some results coming up at the top of the hour. We'll immediately report that information to our viewers.

John Edwards, though, the big winner in South Carolina. Let's take a look at the votes that are coming in right now in South Carolina. Look at this, with more than a third of the vote now in, 37 percent, John Edwards, still at a 15 percent lead over John Kerry, 45 percent to 30 percent, with Sharpton, Clark, Dean, Lieberman, way behind in South Carolina.

Jeff Greenfield, you are looking at this state. What are you seeing?

GREENFIELD: Well, I'm seeing good news for John Edwards across the color line, in fact, Wolf. If we look at the SpatiaLogic vote track board that you've been seeing, we've talked about the black vote and how Al Sharpton is not doing anything there. But now, take a look at some of these counties. McCormick County, for instance, Abbeville County, Laurens County. These are not black majority counties. These are white counties majority, and John Edwards is doing very well in those counties as well as in many of the counties in the so-called black belt, like Williamsburg County down here.

The reason I think this is important is that it is going to enable Edwards to say, all right, this is my home, where I was born. But there are rural white voters all over America, not just in the South, but in Missouri, in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, and these are votes that Democrats have failed to get in recent years and must get if we're going to win.

Yes, it is his hometown. He can't take that little home in Seneca and put it on a flatbed truck and drag it all over America, but this argument plays outside the South.

WOODRUFF: Which we saw in that commercial. And just quickly, Wolf. This is similar to what John Edwards was able to do in Iowa, where he came in second. We keep saying John Edwards needs to win outside the South. He didn't win in Iowa, but he came in a very strong second, party because of his appeal to rural Iowans. So we're seeing the same thing here in South Carolina.

Now, is that enough to propel him all the way to the nomination? It's far too early to say, but at least he's got something to hang his hat on.

BLITZER: Who would have thought, Iowa, South Carolina, that there would be similarities developing, but strange things happen in politics. Stand by.

Bill Schneider is continuing to look at these exit poll numbers in South Carolina. What do you want to share with us?

SCHNEIDER: Well, just a simple observation. John Kerry's second place finish in South Carolina is actually pretty impressive. Because he came out ahead of General Wesley Clark, who is a Southerner and a retired general in a state that has a lot of veterans and a lot of military installations, and ahead of Al Sharpton. So I think you can't downplay the fact that Kerry had a solid second-place finish in South Carolina. He intended to demonstrate his appeal goes outside the North, that he can compete in the South, and while he was beaten by John Edwards, he showed substantial strength outside his native Northeast.

BLITZER: All right. Bill, stand by. Less than two minutes to go, exactly two minutes to go until the polls close in four more states. We'll have some news at the top of the hour.

Frank Buckley is in Columbia, South Carolina, the John Edwards campaign headquarters. We hear a lot of noise, Frank.

BUCKLEY: Well, that's because Senator John Edwards has entered the room with the John Cougar Mellencamp song that we've heard so much on the stump here. I'll get out of the way to see if maybe you can see. No, I guess you can see it there, Senator Edwards is hugging supporters, he's shaking hands. Very excited about the win here in South Carolina.

As you've been hearing, we expected to talk about the fact that he has done well in the South, in the first test in the South. The first test among a significant group of African-American voters. Up to half of the voters were expected to be black on this primary day among Democrat voters. These are some of the things, as you heard from Jeff, he'll talk about the rural voters that he's been able to attract to his campaign.

John Edwards approaching the stage right now in a packed room here. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) getting up onto the stage, to a loud cheer from his supporters here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Frank, we know he has got some bad laryngitis. How bad is it?

BUCKLEY: Well, it's been bad enough that he had to go see a doctor a couple of days ago. And he was given some antibiotics. We know he's been on those antibiotics. And wherever he appears to speak, his voice is very raspy. I suspect that it will be pretty raspy today. I was talking to some campaign aides earlier this afternoon who said, you know, the senator just needs some rest this afternoon. He needs to rest, he needs some downtime, he needs to rest his voice.

There is his wife and daughter approaching now on the stage. And this is the image that the Edwards campaign wanted to get out, quickly, get out across the U.S. to declare the first victory of this night -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Frank, stand by.


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