John Edwards Looks to South Carolina, Beyond

Polls indicate that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards are in a tight race in Nevada ahead of Saturday's Democratic caucuses in the state.

That's good news for Edwards.

He is relying on strong showings in Nevada, as well as in South Carolina's primary on Jan. 26, to rejuvenate his campaign.

Born in South Carolina, Edwards won the state's primary in 2004 and has spent a lot of time campaigning there during the past few weeks.

Supporters Still Believe

At a recent rally held at Myrtle Beach High School in South Carolina, a couple hundred Edwards supporters gather in the cafeteria.

Janice Olds, a proud Edwards supporter from Myrtle Beach, says a strong showing for him in the state is crucial.

"I mean, God bless him. He keeps saying that he's going to go all the way, and I sure hope he does, and you know, all of our little $50 pledges or whatever hopefully will drive that bus all the way to the convention, but I don't know," Olds says.

Nick Januzzi, another supporter, also plans to stick with Edwards despite the challenges ahead.

"You know, you can't be runner-up all the time. ... He's doing pretty well, but not well enough. So I'm hoping he does well here. Like they said, he might be a sleeper. That's what I'm hoping for, you know. Hillary and Obama battle it out, and here he comes," Januzzi says.

Edwards sat down with NPR's All Things Considered to talk about his campaign and the impact of race surfacing just as the Democratic contest heads south.

Candidates Need to 'Move Forward' on Race

Growing up in the segregated South — in South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina — in the midst of the civil rights movement, Edwards says he was steeped in issues of race.

"Everything from Selma to the Orangeburg massacre to the four young men walking into a Woolworth luncheon counter in Greensboro, N.C., all of that was going on around me as I was growing up," he says.

"And you have to be really thoughtful about issues of race, because I grew up with an awful lot of code words. ... And efforts were made to stir up race, in some cases for political motives, in some cases just driven by hatred."

Edwards says he isn't sure if recent controversial statements about race made by the Democratic presidential campaigns is an intentional "stirring up" of racial politics.

But whether it's intentional or unintentional, it's "unfortunate" and unhealthy.

"I think what we want to do is move forward," Edwards says.

South Carolina and Beyond

Edwards expresses confidence about his prospects in South Carolina, which many are likening to a homecoming for him.

"If I make certain that voters here know that I'm fighting for the middle class and to lift up low-income families and am against monied interests, they'll respond. And I think that these people know me, they trust me," Edwards says.

Edwards is also looking ahead to the primaries on Feb. 5, or Super Tuesday: Later this week, he will make a fly-around trip to a number of those states.

"I think what's different about this race ... is that we have three serious candidates, all of whom are taking a significant part of the vote, and I strongly suspect — unless I don't know something about the other two that I should know — that everyone's in this for the long haul" Edwards says.

Eyes on Presidential Prize

Edwards says he's not interested in cutting deals with anyone, nor is he interested in the vice presidency.

"My job right now is to run for president on the causes that I believe in. That's what drives me every day, it's the reason I get up every day, and that's what I'm going to continue to do," he says.

"We've got a long way to go."

Even if he doesn't make a strong finish in the races just ahead, Edwards says his campaign is still viable.

"We're accumulating delegates. The difference between the three of us on delegates is minuscule. And it's the delegates that win you the nomination," he says.

"As of New Hampshire, less than half of 1 percent of voters in America had voted. Ninety-nine percent of voices have not been heard," Edwards says. "I intend to make sure their voices are heard."

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