The story

The top three Democratic presidential candidates face off in a Monday night debate in South Carolina, with the hearts and minds of African-American voters on the line.

Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina share the stage at Myrtle Beach's Palace Theatre as the nation honors the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with a federal holiday.

The debate, put together by CNN and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, comes five days before the Democratic primary in South Carolina, where almost half of the Democratic primary voters are African-Americans.

These voters will be crucial to the outcome of Saturday's primary in South Carolina. They now appear to be leaning heavily toward Obama, who if elected, would become the country's first black president.

Having a debate on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in South Carolina "is very fitting," said David Bohrman, CNN senior vice president and Washington bureau chief, who is executive producer of the debate. "Perhaps a debate on Martin Luther King Day in South Carolina should be made a must-stop on the road to the White House every four years." Read full article »

CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Rebecca Sinderbrand, Chris Welch and Josh Levs contributed to this report.

All About South CarolinaBarack ObamaHillary ClintonJohn Edwards (Politician)

Democratic Face-off
The Democrats face their toughest questions yet at a debate by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and CNN.
Tonight, 8 ET

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