Voters in two states a continent apart were choosing on Saturday among Republican and Democratic candidates for president in contests shadowed by racial politics and the threat of recession.
No front-runner had emerged in either party as South Carolina's Republicans headed for the polls and Nevadans of both parties prepared for the novelty of caucuses.
Polls in South Carolina opened on Saturday at 7 am with many areas seeing rain coming down. A poll manager in Mount Pleasant said it would be difficult to predict what the inclement weather would do to voter turnout. In the northern reaches of the state up to three inches of snow was forecast, which threatened to slow the region to a crawl.
"My friends, these are challenging times," John McCain told supporters on Friday while aboard a World War II aircraft carrier in Charleston's harbour. He was referring to the slumping economy, but he could have been talking about the intensity and the expense of the neck-and-neck fight for the GOP nomination.
To the East, Republicans battled for delegates in South Carolina, home of 6.6 per cent unemployment in December after the largest one-month increase in nearly 20 years. Political viability was at stake for McCain, Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, lowered expectations for his prospects in the Palmetto State by moving on to Nevada.