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Voting begins in key U.S. primary

(CNN) — Voting is under way in the New Hampshire Primary, a key early contest in the U.S. presidential race, where Republican and Democratic campaigners are vying for support in their bids to be chosen as their party’s presidential candidate.

Turnout was expected to be high due to the high stakes and springlike weather, with early reports indicating 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.

On the Democratic side, Barack Obama is aiming to press home his advantage over main rival Hillary Clinton following his success in last week’s Iowa caucus. John Edwards, Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel are also competing for the Democratic nomination.

Among the Republicans, John McCain and Mitch Romney appear to be the frontrunners, with both seeking a morale-boosting victory after rival Mike Huckabee claimed a surprise victory in Iowa. Fred Thompson, Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter also remain in the Republican race.

Former Tennessee senator Thompson has nearly abandoned New Hampshire, while former New York Mayor Giuliani has limited campaigning to focus on later primaries.

Despite its comparatively small population, New Hampshire has traditionally carried an importance disproportionate to its size due to its status as the first state to go to the polls in the U.S. primary calendar. Watch Rep. Duncan Hunter honor the early-voting tradition

A strong performance in New Hampshire can give a candidate valuable momentum, enabling them to rally supporters and raise extra campaign funds going forward to the crucial Super Tuesday primaries on February 5 when voters in 24 states will participate in primary elections.

By contrast, a poor showing in the Granite State can spell the end for a candidate’s White House chances.

Despite the millions spent by candidates from all parties over the past few weeks and months, the first results in New Hampshire came from two tiny hamlets, just after midnight and hours before the rest of the state’s polling places opened.

In Dixville Notch, a hamlet of about 75 near the Canadian border, Arizona senator McCain won the Republican primary with four votes, while Obama, a senator for Illinois, won seven votes in the Democratic contest.

McCain won the state’s primary during his first White House bid eight years ago but eventually lost out to U.S. President George W. Bush for the Republican nomination. The two also won in midnight voting in Hart’s Location, population 42. The last polls in the state close at 8 p.m.

A CNN/WMUR poll of likely voters released Monday night showed the race is still open on both sides with more than 20 percent of respondents on both Democrat and Republican sides saying they were undecided or were still open to changing their minds before voting.

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

McCain Monday attacked the amount of campaign funds spent by his leading rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has poured about $8 million in TV ads into the state — double the spend of McCain — according to figures from TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG, CNN’s consultant on television campaign advertising.

We are going to prove that you can’t buy an election in the state of New Hampshire, McCain said, and we are also going to prove that negative attack ads don’t work either.

Monday’s poll showed McCain leading Romney by a margin of 31 to 26 percentage points.

For his part, Romney emphasized his experience in business rather than his experience in public office. If there has ever been a time we need a change in Washington, it’s now, he said. Because in my experience, what I’ve heard as I travel this country is that Washington is broken.

The former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who won Iowa with extensive support from evangelical Christian voters in that state, was running third in more secular, libertarian New Hampshire with 13 percent, Monday’s poll found.

If we come in anywhere in the third or fourth spot, we are going to be doing great, he told CNN Monday.

Ron Paul, an anti-war Texas congressman and onetime Libertarian Party presidential nominee, was drawing 10 percent support in Monday’s poll. A growing number of independents have told pollsters they are considering voting for the Republican candidate.

The big trouble that we have over the last year was you know, getting our message out, Paul told CNN. And now, the money is flowing in, the money comes in faster than we can spend it. Because when people hear this message, they get so excited about it.

Among Democrats, Obama is hoping to turn an apparent boost in opinion polls after the Iowa caucuses into a second victory over his leading rivals, senator Hillary Clinton and former senator John Edwards.

Monday’s poll showed him enjoying a lead of 39 percent, with Clinton on 30 percent and Edwards third on 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.

But Obama, still in his first term as a senator in Illinois, defended his message Monday, telling a crowd in Rochester, New Hampshire that hope is not blind optimism.

At a morning rally Tuesday, 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.

Clinton has tried to turn the tide by emphasizing her record as a change agent, as a senator and as first lady. She fought back 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.

Edwards, meanwhile, blasted Clinton for taking money from the pharmaceutical and defense interests, despite her criticisms of big business while campaigning. What has been happening in America is it is big corporate businesses and big multinational corporations that have entirely too much influence on the policy, he told CNN.

New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, placed fourth in Monday’s opinion poll on seven percent, said he has set his sights on the remaining undecided voters.

With Bill Richardson, you get change and you get experience, the former U.N. ambassador and energy secretary told CNN. You have to have experience to change things. I have a record.
found here.

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January 8, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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