The 2008 race for the White House began in South Carolina before 2007 dawned, and the year saw an unprecedented amount of presidential politicking in the Palmetto State. Here are 10 highlights:
EARLY BACKERS: As Democratic contenders pursued the black vote, expected to make up half of the electorate in the party's Jan. 26 primary, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York got a jump by lining up the backing of prominent state Sens. Robert Ford and Darrell Jackson. She was criticized for her campaign's deal with Jackson's public relations firm.
BIG TALK: Supporters of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois won the second round as the state's Black Congressional Caucus, and after much back and forth, agreed to invite him, not Clinton, to speak at its annual gala.
A HISTORIC DEBATE: The presidential campaign kicked off in earnest in April, when eight Democratic candidates met in Orangeburg for one of the nation's first televised debates. They spent much of their time on stage at S.C. State University discussing what to do about Iraq.
FISH TO FRY: The growing influence of U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the new Majority Whip, could be seen in a parking garage in downtown Columbia a few days after the first debate. Inside, all leading Democratic hopefuls attended Clyburn's annual fish fry for party activists. Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina entered with a marching band.
YOUTUBE: Just two months after Republicans held their first state debate in Columbia, the Democrats held their second. This one was held at The Citadel and might be remembered mostly for the unconventional way the questions were posed: via YouTube.com — certainly the first time candidates were ever questioned by a snowman.
ENTERING STAGE RIGHT: Months of speculation ended in September when former U.S. Sen. and "Law and Order" television star Fred Thompson of Tennessee jumped in the GOP race, billing himself as the one true conservative. His rise in the polls was sharp but was soon challenged by another native southerner: former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
NO SURRENDER: Republican hopeful U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona began the year here with a big lead in the polls and many prominent backers. His lead eroded, though, as he backed an unpopular immigration bill. He tried to rebound with frequent stops to the Palmetto State, including a "No Surrender" tour ostensibly named after his support of the nation's Iraq policy. The name also summed up his campaign plan.
COMIC RELIEF: Charleston native and Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert flirted with running for the Republican and the Democratic nominations, so he "could lose twice." But he declined to pay the $25,000 needed to get on the GOP ballot, and state Dems kept him off theirs. One bonus: The Associated Press named him "Celebrity of the Year."
OPRABAMA: When media mogul Oprah Winfrey joined Obama on the campaign trail earlier this month in Columbia, they were able to attract the biggest political crowd in at least a generation. The event was moved to Williams Brice Stadium and drew almost 30,000.