COLUMBIA -- He came in second in Iowa and third in New Hampshire, seriously diminishing his chances of winning the Democratic presidential nomination.
Today, John Edwards' prospects don't seem much brighter in his native South Carolina.
Nevertheless, the Seneca native and former U.S. senator from North Carolina presses ahead, showing no sign of quitting.
That irritates some, especially those associated with the presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. The former first lady's allies say the longer Edwards stays in the race, the more problems his candidacy will cause the party down the road.
One senior adviser to the Clinton campaign said Edwards was "angry" because the primary race isn't turning out the way he had hoped. Now, Edwards just wants to make life miserable for everyone else.
Some think Edwards is playing the role of a spoiler, prolonging the day of reckoning between Clinton and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, the Democratic front-runners.
They fear the longer the Clinton-Obama battle goes on, the harder it will be to heal the inevitable wounds in the Democratic Party.
It's time for Edwards to drop out of the race, they say.
Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon suggested Democratic Party leaders might want to step in before the in-fighting gets out of hand and causes lasting damage.
Edwards won the 2004 S.C. Democratic primary, when he was the new guy on the block.
There was hope then for his fresh-face candidacy.
But polls today paint a different picture of Edwards. It's one of anger, frustration and disappointment.
Nationally, Edwards trails badly in the polls, a weak third to his rivals, Clinton and Obama. Still, he presses on. "I'm in this for the long haul," Edwards recently told reporters. "I will be in it through the convention and to the White House. ... I intend to be the nominee."
Edwards and his brain trust have worked feverishly to persuade people the race for the Democratic nomination is far from over and he still has a shot.
Big test: Feb. 5
While the Democrats turn their attention to Saturday's S.C. primary, the big test really will come on Super Tuesday, when more than 20 states -- including New York, California and Illinois -- will be decided on Feb. 5.
Even after Super Tuesday, more than 40 percent of the Democratic delegates will not have been picked, the Edwards campaign points out.
But even in his native South Carolina, Edwards is trailing badly, a weak third to Obama and Clinton.
Why is he hanging on?
What does he hope to gain?
Edwards clearly doesn't like Clinton. He brands her the candidate of the "status quo." He sees himself and Obama as the true candidates of "change."
Edwards' goal always has been to narrow the race to two candidates. He apparently is hoping one of the front-runners will stumble, leaving him the only challenger to the survivor.
Last week, Edwards completed a four-day road trip around his native state.
He relishes campaigning again in South Carolina, pushing his populist message that focuses in large part on his family's roots in the state's flagging textile industry.
"What this race is about and what this election is about is standing up and fighting for the middle class," he told a campaign audience.
"The question is, 'Will we have a president of the United States who first understands what's happening in South Carolina and across the United States of America?'"
Edwards still thinks he has a chance to win. With Clinton and Obama splitting votes, it won't be possible to secure the number of delegates needed to win the nomination, or so his thinking goes.
But unless he can score a major upset in South Carolina -- winning or finishing a strong second -- pressure undoubtedly will grow for him to pull out of the race.