Clark campaign gets symbolic boost

Wesley Clark's attempt for the presidential nomination got a symbolic boost when he captured eight of the 15 votes cast for Democrats in the first balloting of the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday.

    Clark had made a big push to woo Independents in New Hampshire

    Voters in the northern hamlet of Dixville Notch braved freezing cold to uphold the town's 40-year-old tradition of being the first in the state

    to announce its election results.

    All 26 registered voters in Dixville Notch - 15 Independents and 11 Republicans - cast their ballots in wooden voting booths in a cramped

    room at a resort in the northern White Mountains.

    The Republicans voted for President George Bush.

    "I'm grateful to be here and for the support here at Dixville Notch. This is a big step for me," said Clark, who is making his first attempt for any

    elective office.

    Dean falls behind

    Clark (R) has won wide support
    from veterans in the country

    Massachusetts Senator John Kerry got three votes while two ballots were cast for North Carolina Senator John Edwards.

    One each went to Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and former Vermont governor Howard Dean.

    Right at midnight, Rick Erwin, an Independent, kicked off the primary vote, casting his ballot for Clark.

    "I've been leaning that way. I like everything he said about the environment and the economy," Erwin said.

    Erwin also said Clark was very strong on foreign policy.

    Clark made a big push in New Hampshire to woo Independents, a segment which includes many veterans and tends to reward
    plain-speaking

    non-conventional candidates.

    A Reuters/MSNBC/Zogby poll released on the eve of the primary had Clark in third place behind front-runners Kerry and Dean.

    Exalted position

    Clark and wife Gert take questions
    from the media after the vote

    Dixville Notch takes advantage of a state election law that allows communities to close the polls after all registered voters have cast their

    ballots.

    Every four years, Dixville Notch, for a moment, becomes the centre of the US presidential campaign because it represents the first direct

    vote for a candidate.

    In the Iowa caucuses a week earlier, voters chose delegates for the candidates.

    Dixville Notch generally is referred to by political pundits as a tiny hamlet, but in reality it is the home of the 15,000-acre Balsams Resort.

    In 1960, in an effort to get some publicity as well as serve a civic function, the resort's late owner, Neil Tillotson, opened voting booths at

    midnight on primary day and reported the results of the staff's ballots to the local wire service.

    The same procedure was followed on election day. Every four years since, the media has turned to Dixville Notch for the nation's first

    votes.

    SOURCE: AFP


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