Edwards keeps on running in presidential race

( Reuters )- John Edwards just keeps on running. He hasn't won a single contest in the Democratic race for the U.S. presidential nomination but the millionaire lawyer with the movie star smile still hopes to be a player in the November election.

Edwards suffered a blow to his struggling White House bid with a disappointing third-place finish in Saturday's primary election in his native South Carolina -- the only state he had managed to win in his failed 2004 presidential bid.

But the former trial attorney and 2004 vice presidential nominee, who had hoped to win over voters by focusing on his humble roots and a pledge to combat U.S. poverty, will not quit before "Super Tuesday" early next month, when 22 states vote.

"Now the three of us move on to February 5 where millions of Americans will cast their vote and help shape the future of this party and help shape the future of America," Edwards said.

"We will be with you every single step of the way."

Edwards' advisers say the race is far from over, with their candidate slowly amassing delegates that could turn him into a powerful player at the Democratic convention in August.

Usually the party's nominee is clear long before the convention, after the first states have held their contests and one candidate amasses enough of the 2,025 delegates to win the nomination.

But this race is close, with Democratic front-runners Sens . Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton splitting key early primaries. Edwards nevertheless continues to pull in delegates -- preventing either of his opponents from grabbing an early majority.

Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, a senior Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, said he expected the nominating contest to be decided at the convention.

"I do feel that way and I think it would be very, very good if that were to occur," Clyburn said on CNN. "We've got three candidates now, no one of them is particularly dominant. All three of them are going to leave South Carolina with a ticket all the way to the convention."

"This is a marathon, not a sprint," said campaign manager David Bonior. "This is just beginning. I know everyone wants to put it away with these two."

Senior campaign adviser Joe Trippi suggested that if Edwards did not win the nomination he would head into the convention with potentially hundreds of delegates and bargaining power.

"We're going for the nomination," said Trippi . "But in the worst case we could go to the convention as a peacemaker."

Asked if Edwards would relish the role as a possible kingmaker, Bonior said: "He's not doing it for the sake of being a kingmaker."

Edwards has raised $3 million on the Internet since a contentious Democratic debate this week in which he styled himself as the "adult" on stage in a brawl between Clinton and Obama .

"We're feeling good," Trippi said.

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