Voters head to polls in key New Hampshire presidential primary

Democratic Party looks to recover after chaotic Iowa caucuses as voters cast ballots in US state of New Hampshire.

Sanders reacts to cheers at a campaign rally and concert at the University of New Hampshire one day before the New Hampshire presidential primary election in Durham, New Hampshire [Mike Segar/Reuters]
Sanders reacts to cheers at a campaign rally and concert at the University of New Hampshire one day before the New Hampshire presidential primary election in Durham, New Hampshire [Mike Segar/Reuters]

Manchester, New Hampshire – Voters in New Hampshire are heading to the polls in the first presidential primary of the 2020 presidential race.

The primary follows the chaotic Iowa caucuses, after which the two top candidates – Senator Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg – called for a recanvass of the results.

Registered members of either party in New Hampshire can only vote for their own candidates, whereas independent and undeclared voters can vote in either primary.

While no clear favourite has emerged, Sanders appears to have the most momentum in the latest polls, with Buttigieg in second place and a number of others, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar and former Vice President Joe Biden, trailing behind.

Pete Buttigieg, Democratic presidential candidate and former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and his husband Chasten attend a campaign event in Exeter, New Hampshire [Eric Thayer/Reuters]

“I’m teetering between Amy, Pete and Elizabeth,” said Niki Navarro, a hostess at a busy restaurant in downtown Manchester.

She told Al Jazeera that “watching their presence in interviews” would help her decide just before voting, and that healthcare was her most important issue.

Navarro also said she would support “whoever will be good enough to go up against Trump”.

Democratic 2020 US presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar is greeted by supporters during a campaign event in Salem, New Hampshire [Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

In Concord, residents held signs for their candidates outside polling places, hoping to sway voters at the last minute.

“Just the whole tradition of holding signs outside polling places is important to me,” Eric Gallager told Al Jazeera as he held a Sanders’s sign. “It’s my favourite thing about politics.”

Huck Montgomery, also of Concord, originally supported Senator Kamala Harris, who dropped out of the race in late last year. He hoisted signs for Warren instead.

“She’s really clearly the only candidate in the field who can bring us all together,” he told Al Jazeera.

‘We bleed politics’

With a primary that historically has predicted the eventual nominee only half the time, a win in New Hampshire is not the be-all-end-all.

Meanwhile, half of the state’s voters reported being undecided, with some embracing candidates not in the top tier.

Tom Smith, a voter from Hillsboro, said he would vote for Democratic Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard because “she fits into a maverick type of a profile”.

The small town of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, is traditionally the first town to open the polls in the state [Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

Considering himself a “fierce independent”, he technically has the option of voting in either the Democratic or Republican primary.

“We bleed politics,” Smith told Al Jazeera, pointing to the Campaign Manager 2008 board game he was playing with his son to share “good memories” of the US presidential election 12 years ago.

“[Gabbard] supports Medicare for All. She has a military background but supports nonviolence and anti-interventionism,” he added. “These are all winning issues.”

Tuesday’s weather brings a wintry mix to freezing roads, so some commentators have suggested that Democratic voter turnout could be adversely affected.

“I’m from New Hampshire,” Smith said. “If the weather stopped me from doing anything, then I wouldn’t be able to live.”

Biden speaks to supporters at a campaign event in Manchester, New Hampshire [Carlos Barria/Reuters]

On Monday, the chairman of the state Democratic Party expressed confidence in the prospects of overcoming the incumbent in November.

“His ego can’t stand the idea of something going on and he’s not in the middle of it,” Raymond Buckley told reporters, referring to Trump’s Manchester visit on Monday night. “It has backfired on him before, and I believe it’s going to backfire on him this time.”

Warren speaks at a campaign town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire [Brian Snyder/Reuters]

Frontrunner?

A prolonged and bitter contest between moderate and left-leaning Democrats could buttress Trump’s re-election chances in November.

The Republican primary in New Hampshire may be just a formality, as Trump looks to assert his dominance over the party’s rank-and-file voters and extend a post-impeachment victory lap.

Hoping to upstage his rivals and stay in the limelight, Trump’s mission on the eve of Tuesday’s primaries in the state was also to highlight fractures within the opposition.

“We are in the midst of a great American comeback,” Trump said. “Our country is stronger than ever before.”

Trump speaks at a during a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire [File: Rick Wilking/Reuters]

Robert Dyer, a former naval contractor, attended the Trump rally – his first – at the SNHU Arena.

“What’s going on in the Democratic party?” he asked rhetorically. “With all the things [Trump] has done and the promises he’s kept, he should be easily re-elected.”

“The Dems have the same issue that Republicans had the last time,” he told Al Jazeera. “They have too many people. But they don’t really have a frontrunner.”

Most polls close in New Hampshire at 7pm local time (00:00 GMT). Early results are expected to begin rolling in as soon as polls close.

Source : Al Jazeera

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