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McCain holds early lead

(CNN) — Vote counting has begun 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.

Ballots ran low in some polling stations six hours before the last polling stations closed at 8 p.m., indicating a larger-than-expected turnout, representatives of New Hampshire’s secretary of state said.

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.

With just 9 percent of precincts reported, John McCain had an early lead in the Republican race. In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were neck and neck.

In exit polls, voters from both parties rated the economy their top issue and the war in Iraq second — but concerns about illegal immigration rated third among Republicans, while Democrats said health care was just behind Iraq.

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, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel are also competing for the Democratic nomination.

I’m never a frontrunner; I’m always the underdog, Obama said Tuesday as he tried to persuade undecided voters.

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

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, McCain said Monday in a jab at Romney, his main rival according to state opinion polls.

Former Tennessee Senator Thompson has nearly abandoned New Hampshire, while former New York Mayor Giuliani has concentrated his attention on later primaries.

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. Watch Rep. Duncan Hunter honor the early-voting tradition

The two also won in midnight voting in Hart’s Location, population 42.

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.

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.

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.

Former Arkansas governor 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.

Huckabee said Tuesday third would be huge for us. Even fourth is still better than where we were even two or three weeks ago.

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 change has drawn crowds — but also criticism from rivals who suggest he will be too soft to deliver the change he promises, and too inexperienced to have a proven record of change.

Other hopefuls from both parties are also using the ‘change’ word to trumpet their own candidacy.

At a morning rally Tuesday, Obama said: My job is to be so persuasive that if there’s anybody left out there who is still not sure whether they will vote,… you will experience an epiphany … and you will suddenly realize that you must go to the polls and vote for Obama.

Sen. Clinton has tried to turn the tide by emphasizing her record as a change agent, as a senator and as first lady. 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 9, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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