John McCain erased the memory of his defeat here in the 2000 presidential race by winning the Republicans' South Carolina primary on 19 January with 33% of the vote, three points ahead of Mike Huckabee on 30%.
Mr McCain's victory showed that he was capable of winning votes in the Republican Party's southern heartland, leaving him in a strong position going into Florida's 29 January primary.
The Democratic race, held on 26 January, was won convincingly by Barack Obama with 55% of the vote, well ahead of his main rival, Hillary Clinton. His success was mainly due to scooping up some 80% of the votes from the state's African-American community, which constitutes half of the primary electorate.
John Edwards, for his part, was unable to repeat his winning performance in the 2004 presidential primary.
Aware that the state could be seen as a test of his ability to attract black voters, Mr Obama spent considerably more than Mrs Clinton in South Carolina in early 2007, but by the end of the year she was matching his expenditure.
The state has pockets of rural poverty, as well as a large industrial base, and voters - both black and white - tend to cite job creation and healthcare as their top priorities.