MOUNT PLEASANT — Four Democratic hopefuls stayed close to former Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday morning, shuffling behind him as he flashed smile after smile in one photo after another inside Page's Okra Grill.

The South Carolina Democrats — gubernatorial candidate James Smith, his running mate Mandy Powers Norrell, congressional candidate Joe Cunningham and state treasurer candidate Rosalyn Glenn — would wait each time for Biden to make their introduction. Sometimes he would. Sometimes he wouldn't and would instead move on to the next table, arm outstretched in anticipation of the next handshake.

This time, Biden called for Smith.

"James, get in here!" Biden said, waving him over to a table still laden with savory egg dishes and a stack of sweet potato pancakes. Biden had determined that this second picture would have them together, smiling side by side.

After an aide handed an iPhone back to a stunned restaurant patron, Biden slung his arm around Smith and told the table, "This is James Smith. He's running for governor, and he's a good man with a lot of character."

Even when Biden placed his order — pecan raisin french toast, with no bacon — he continued campaigning for Smith. 

"I got an order," Biden said, flashing a smile at a reporter who he mistook for a waitress. "James Smith has gotta win the governorship. Can you do that for me?"

The waitress who placed his order let out a small laugh.

Biden's breakfast stop in the Lowcountry came on a busy political day in the Palmetto State, where the state's midterm elections are just three weeks away.

"We are in a battle for America's soul," Biden said of the midterms, adding that South Carolina is a key player in that fight.

"I remember when South Carolina wasn't all Republican," Biden said. "People change."

Biden then invoked the names of two well-known Democrats that South Carolinians have elected in the past: Former Gov. Dick Riley and former U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings.

When asked if he's eyeing a presidential bid in 2020, Biden did not respond directly. "No, not yet," he told reporters. "And I don't know whether I will or not."

After trying to raise the profile of S.C. Democrats at the Mount Pleasant eatery, Biden headlined a long-promised private fundraiser for Smith in downtown Charleston.

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The Smith campaign would not say how much money was raised, but spokesman Brad Warthen said about 160 people attended the event at the American Theater and said the fundraiser "met and exceeded our expectations."

Biden then traveled to Columbia to stump for Dick Harpootlian, a Democratic state Senate candidate.

Also in South Carolina on Saturday was Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat who won his re-election bid in a state that Trump carried by 20 points. He campaigned at two different events for Cunningham who is running against Republican state Rep. Katie Arrington to represent the Lowcountry in Washington.

"What Democrats need to be doing is giving those folks a reason to vote for us not just against Donald Trump," Bullock said.

Meanwhile, Republicans were making their own pitch to voters, too.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, whose national profile soared after giving an impassioned speech during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, spent part of his Saturday morning campaigning for U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Lexington.

"This House race, these House seats, determine who's in charge," Graham told Richland and Lexington County Republican parties about the upcoming election.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.