The race for the leader of the Democrat party is hotting up. One candidate is miles in front. He has endorsements from Al Gore and cash flowing in via the internet. Howard Dean is clear favourite.
Mr Dean is expected to do well in the first two tests of the US Democratic leadership election, but attention is turning already to the third big hurdle - the primary at the beginning of February in South Carolina.
The Importance of South Carolina
Deep in the heart of the southern town of Charleston, many of Howard Dean's supporters have gathered to campaign for their candidate, in what they believe will be the major battle in the primary elections.
Many of his followers have given up both time and money to help Mr Dean's drive for the White House. Fred and Marilyn Sirasky gave up their two week vacation and travelled from New York to help at this critical time. As Mary explains;
"Fred and I don't have a lot of money... and we've managed a little bit of savings and we were talking for sometime about how to invest our little bit of money... And I said why don't we invest in our democracy?"
So they donated $1000 dollar and hit the streets of South Carolina in thehope of persuading democrats to vote for Howard Dean.
It's not just middle-aged liberals that are keen advocates of the Dean machine. He has strong support from what is now being termed as 'Generation Dean'. These are college students who see Dean as an honest man who has been a keen critic of the war against Iraq. The internet has a key tool used by his supporters trying to gain sway. The campaign group started at a college in Charleston, but soon spread across the superhighway to Missouri and California.
Kayla Carter is another volunteer on the Dean Campaign trail. She singles out Dean's policies on womens' issues and healthcare as two of her main priorities. Perhaps more importantly, she is sold on what she believes is his high level of integrity;
"He says what he means and means what he says".
This battleground may give rise to a future President of U.S.A. However, the vote is expected to be very close. Steeped in colonial history, the southern state of South Carolina is composed of four major towns Columbia, Charleston, Greenville and Spartanburg. The port town of Charleston, used to be the main depot for slaves from Africa, although the state is now renowned for exporting cotton, cereal and pecan nuts.
Only time will tell if Howard Dean and his volunteers can convince the rest of the state that he is the best democratic candidate.
The Democrat candidates are:
* Wesley Clark
* Howard Dean
* John Edwards
* Richard Gephardt
* John Kerry
* Dennis Kucinich
* Joseph Lieberman
* Carol Moseley Braun
* Al Sharpton
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