New Hampshire primary: Record turnout predicted as candidates battle down to the wire

Many observers believe the race in New Hampshire is tightening 

Andrew Buncombe
Salem
Tuesday 09 February 2016 22:24 GMT
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Chris Christie urged his supporters to continue to work the phones
Chris Christie urged his supporters to continue to work the phones (Andrew Buncombe )

Footsore but determined, America’s presidential candidates continued to push for votes on Tuesday - reaching out to voters and urging supporters to get people to the polls in what will likely be a crucial contest.

Polls in most of New Hampshire opened at 6am - in three small villages voters cast their ballots after midnight on Monday - and were due to stay open until 7pm or later.

The state’s chief election official predicted a record turnout, and with polls showing a tightening of the race, candidates realised that getting supporters to the polls was at important as making their case. Bill Gardner said he believed 550,000 votes will be cast across the state. That would surpass the nearly 530,000 cast in 2008, which was a record.

Hillary Clinton is fighting against Vermont senator Bernie Sanders
Hillary Clinton is fighting against Vermont senator Bernie Sanders (Rex)

Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey and one of eight Republican candidates, visited workers at volunteers at his office in Salem where he thanked them for their work and urged them to keep hitting the phones to urge people to vote until the polls closed.

Most recent polls have put Mr Christie far behind frontrunner Donald Trump several other candidates. A poll released on Tuesday by ABC had Donald

Trump on 33 points, John Kasich on 17 points, Marco Rubio on 14, Ted Cruz on 10, Jeb Bush on 9, Mr Christie on 8, Carly Fiorina on 3 and Ben Carson on 1 point.

But he is one of several candidates who claim to have detected a shift in the public mood since Saturday’s debate when he attacked Mr Rubio. Many commentators said Mr Christie’s claim that Mr Rubio did not have the sufficient experience to be a president, had resonated with many voters.

Mr Christie told his workers in Salem: “Today is a big day for us. I think a lot of people are rethinking who is qualified to be president of the United States. It is important that every vote we have converted, we get out.”

He added: “Everything you do here is very important.”

Mr Trump insisted he had the 'biggest heart in the room' when it came to Syrian refugees
Mr Trump insisted he had the 'biggest heart in the room' when it came to Syrian refugees (AP)

Mr Christie told The Independent he was confident of doing well on Tuesday night and would move swiftly on to South Carolina on Wednesday to campaign ahead of the next primary contest.

“And for the people of the UK, they should know they will have a president who cherishes the relationship with that nation, and who looks forwarding to visiting as president of the United States,” he said.

The other candidates also continued to reach out to voters. Tycoon Mr Trump did the rounds of a couple of television studios while Mr Rubio, Mr Christie and Mr Bush all stopped at Manchester’s Webster School to early voters chat with voters as they arrived.

Yet they were not the first to cast their ballot. That honour fell to the residents of a handful of hamlets that began voting at midnight in some hamlets to kick off the first-in-the-nation primary. The towns delivered mixed verdicts.

In tiny Dixville Notch, whose residents have been voting at midnight since 1960, all four Democratic votes went to Mr Sanders. On the Republican side, Ohio Governor John Kasich received three, and Mr Trump had two, the Washington Post reported.

The night before New Hampshire primary

In an interview with ABC Mr Kasich said he took the Dixville Notch contest so seriously that he called every voter in town.

“Hey, you know, we came out strong,” he said.

Mr Kasich added that he had already “sent my bus — my magic bus — down to South Carolina” to get a jump on the next presidential contest.

Mr Rubio, who is struggling to reclaim momentum after stumbling in the last debate, portrayed the growing attacks from rivals as a sign of his campaign’s strength.

“It’s great to be targeted, because it means you’re doing something right,” he said.

The ABC poll gave Mr Sanders a nine-point lead over Ms Clinton, suggesting they will 53 and 44 points respectively. If that plays out, the former secretary of state will have done to reduce a lead the Vermont senator enjoyed that once stood at more than 30 points.

She has fought hard in New Hampshire and reminded crowds that the state was kind both to her, in 2008, when she bounced back from defeat to Barack Obama in Iowa, and to her husband in 1992 when Bill Clinton came second and declared himself the “Comeback Kid”.

Reports said that at a polling station in the town of Derry on Tuesday morning, Ms Clinton bumped into the husband of former Hewlett-Packard CEO Ms Fiorina, who has repeatedly derided Ms Clinton's marriage to Mr Clinton as loveless.

“Well, give my best to Carly,” Ms Clinton said to Frank Fiorina after they had swapped pleasantries about the marvels of democracy. “Want to get a picture?”

Mr Fiorina said he did, and they posed for the cameras.

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