Edwards aids are ready to concede they won’t win a state. Time to give up? Never.

Mr. Edwards said in an interview last week that he and Mrs. Edwards had not given post-campaign life a moment’s thought. “Our Plan B is to win,” he said.

But his aides have said privately that they do not expect Mr. Edwards to win a single primary state. And the results of the Nevada caucuses threw the campaign’s top advisers into hours of strategy meetings Saturday night, debating how the shellshocked campaign could feasibly continue.

In the end, the campaign held onto its longstanding position of simply hanging on. “There’s just no reason not to go to South Carolina, pick up delegates and watch the dynamics of the race play out for a while,” one adviser said.

Bounding to the stage at a rally in St. Helena Island to the song “Fortunate Son,” Mr. Edwards played up his roots in the state. “People ask me, what makes you think you can win the South Carolina primary?” he said, stretching out his Southern drawl. “One very simple answer: I talk like this.”

At a campaign rally in Myrtle Beach, a man jumped onstage and pleaded into a microphone, “Could you fill the empty space?” He urged the people in the back to cluster around the stage. “This is a rally, people.”