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Candidates chase undecided voters as N.H. goes to polls

DIXVILLE NOTCH, New Hampshire (CNN) — Candidates vying for their parties’ presidential nominations zigzagged across New Hampshire on Tuesday, trying to sway undecided voters before they cast ballots in the first-in-the-nation primary.

The results of Tuesday’s voting in the Granite State could have huge implications in both the Democratic and Republican presidential races.

Turnout was expected to be high due to the high stakes and springlike weather.

Early reports indicate long lines at polling stations.

The New Hampshire secretary of state’s office said anyone waiting in line when the polls officially close at 8 p.m. ET will be allowed to vote.

After months of campaigning and millions of dollars spent on advertising, voting began in two hamlets just after midnight, hours before the rest of the state’s polling places opened. See the New Englanders head to the polls

The first ballots were cast in Dixville Notch, a hamlet of about 75 near the Canadian border.

People there favored Sen. John McCain of Arizona in the Republican primary — he got four votes — and Sen. Barack Obama of IIlinois in the Democratic contest, who won seven votes.

Obama and McCain also won in midnight voting in Hart’s Location, population 42. The two senators hope to see those results duplicated statewide.

The top contenders were scrambling to nail down supporters among an electorate notorious for its independence.

Obama worked to turn an apparent boost in the polls after the Iowa caucuses into a second victory over his leading rivals, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. Watch Rep. Duncan Hunter honor the early-voting tradition

At a morning rally, Obama praised the student volunteers working for his campaign and gave them with one last mission: to persuade undecided voters to cast theirs ballot for him.

My job is to be so persuasive that if there’s anybody left out there who is still not sure whether they will vote, or is still not clear who they will vote for, that a light will shine through that window, a beam of light will come down upon you, you will experience an epiphany … and you will suddenly realize that you must go to the polls and vote for Obama, the Democrat said in Hanover.

McCain expressed confidence he would win the Republican primary, which he did during his first White House bid eight years ago.

We are going to prove that you can’t buy an election in the state of New Hampshire — and we are also going to prove that negative attack ads don’t work either, he said Monday in a jab at his leading rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Romney has poured $8 million into television ads in the Granite State, outspending McCain 2-to-1, according to figures from TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG, CNN’s consultant on TV campaign advertising.

But a CNN/WMUR poll of likely voters released Monday night showed McCain leading Romney by 31 percent to 26 percent.

Change was the buzzword on all the candidates’ lips. Speaking Monday in Nashua, Romney emphasized his experience in business and in shaking up the 2002 Winter Olympics rather than his years in public office.

Let’s bring new vigor and new passion to Washington and not just talk about change, but who actually has delivered change, not only in the private sector but in the Olympics and in the state of Massachusetts, Romney said. So a record of bringing change is going to post up very well with Barack Obama, who can only talk about it. Watch Romney say his record will sway undecided voters

Romney also spent heavily in Iowa, only to be beaten by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Huckabee won the GOP Iowa caucuses with extensive support from evangelical Christian voters, but he was running third in the more secular, libertarian New Hampshire with 13 percent, Monday’s poll found.

Huckabee said Tuesday he believes Americans all want the same thing.

They want government to leave them alone, let them live their lives: They want government to do the job that it’s supposed to do, and that’s protect us, give us the capacity to be free, and then beyond that, let us live our lives, he said at a Manchester polling station.

New Hampshire’s independent voters, who make up about 40 percent of the state’s electorate, could throw a surprise into the primaries.

McCain’s 2000 victory came on the backs of a strong independent turnout in the GOP primary, but a CNN-WMUR poll Sunday found independent voters split almost evenly between the parties this year.

More than 20 percent of respondents on both sides said they either had not yet made up their minds or are still open to changing their minds before voting.

Among Democrats, Monday’s poll found Obama riding a nine-point percentage lead over Clinton, 39 percent to 30 percent. Edwards, who edged out Clinton for second place in Iowa, ran third with 16 percent.

Obama’s theme of hope has drawn crowds but also criticism from rivals who suggest he will be too soft to deliver the change he promises. The first-term senator defended his message Monday, telling a crowd in Rochester that hope is not blind optimism.

Hope’s the opposite of that, he said. Hope’s not ignoring the challenges and obstacles that stand in your way, it’s about confronting them.

Meanwhile, he said, The real gamble would be to have the same old folks doing the same old things over and over and over again and somehow expecting a different result.

Clinton has tried to turn the tide by emphasizing her record as a change agent, as a senator and as first lady. She fought tears as she described the stakes in the campaign at a forum with uncommitted voters in Portsmouth, calling it one of the most important elections America has ever faced.

This is very personal for me — it’s not just political, it’s not just public, she said in response to a question about the stress of the campaign. I see what’s happening, and we have to reverse it. Watch Clinton get emotional on the trail

Meanwhile, Edwards sharpened his criticism of Clinton, blasting her for taking money from the pharmaceutical and defense interests the former trial lawyer routinely excoriates on the stump.

I’ve never taken any money — any money — from a Washington lobbyist or a special interest PAC. She’s continued to do that. She’s taken more lobbyist money than any candidate, Edwards said Tuesday in Manchester.
found here.

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January 8, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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