Washington, Jan.8 : Voters in two New Hampshire hamlets cast their ballots Tuesday just after midnight in the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary, hours before the rest of the state's polling places open.
Reports from the hamlet of Dixville Notch in New Hampshire and near the Canadian border said people favoured Senator John McCain in the Republican primary. McCain got four votes and Senator Barack Obama won seven votes in the Democratic contest. Dixville Notch has a population of 75.
Obama and McCain also won in midnight voting in Hart's Location, which has a population 42.
The last polls close at 8 p.m.
Leading up to the primary, the top contenders were scrambling to nail down supporters among an electorate notorious for its independence. Obama worked to turn an apparent boost in the polls after the Iowa caucuses into a second victory over his leading rivals, Senator Hillary Clinton and former Senator John Edwards. McCain expressed confidence that he would win the day's Republican primary, a contest he won during his first White House bid eight years ago.
His leading rival, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has poured eight million dollars into television ads in New Hampshire, outspending McCain 2-to-1, according to figures from TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG, CNN's consultant on television campaign advertising.
A CNN/WMUR poll released Monday night showed McCain leading Romney by a margin of 31 to 26 percentage points.
Change was the buzzword on all the candidates' lips Monday. Speaking in Nashua, Romney emphasized his experience in business and in shaking up the 2002 Winter Olympic effort rather than his experience in public office.
New Hampshire's independent voters, who make up about 40 percent of the state's electorate, could throw a surprise into the primaries.
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. The first-term Illinois senator defended his message Monday, telling a crowd in Rochester that hope "is not blind optimism."
"Hope's the opposite of that," he said. "Hope's not ignoring the challenges and obstacles that stand in your way, it's about confronting them."
Clinton has tried to turn the tide by emphasizing her record as a "change agent," as a senator and as first lady. She fought 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, sharpened his criticism of Clinton, blasting her for taking money from the pharmaceutical and defense interests the former trial lawyer routinely excoriates on the stump.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who was polling fourth among Democrats at 7 percent, said he has set his sights on the remaining undecided voters.
Two polls show Obama with a double-digit lead over Senator Clinton.
A USA Today/Gallup poll gave Senator Obama a 13-point lead over Senator Clinton, while a CNN/WMUR tracking poll showed Senator Obama leading by 10 points.
The USA Today poll of 778 New Hampshire Democrats showed Senator Obama with 41 percent support and Senator Clinton with 28 percent. The CNN/WMUR poll of 268 Democrats showed Senator Obama leading Senator Clinton 39 percent-29 percent and put John Edwards at 16 percent.
Previously, the two polls had Senators Clinton and Obama tied.
For the first time, more New Hampshire voters saw Senator Obama as the Democrat most able to beat a Republican rival, according to the CNN/WMUR poll, which gave him a 42 percent-31 percent edge over Senator Clinton on "electability".
Clinton's strategy of trying to blast all rivals for the nomination out of contention in the early primary races is in tatters, and as soon as the New Hampshire vote is over, she will need to concentrate on major states such as California and New York - due to vote on February 5 - to avoid being overtaken by the wave of support Senator Obama is building.
Clinton's campaign managers are now highlighting the differences between herself and Senator Obama, by painting herself as the experienced one against a novice and as a pragmatist against a naive dreamer.
On Sunday, she sought to slow Senator Obama's momentum by challenging his voting record and the assertion that he was the only candidate who would bring about change.
"We need a president who knows how to govern, who will bring us together as a country to find common ground, but who also knows how to stand our ground," Clinton said.
She took to the hustings on Sunday, holding two rallies in towns in New Hampshire. Both were well attended by supporters and voters who are still making up their minds.
At the Nashua High School, where on Saturday Senator Obama attracted crowds that caused traffic jams and long queues, Senator Clinton drew a crowd only slightly smaller, about 3700, suggesting that she is still of interest to voters who have not yet made up their minds.
Later in the afternoon, in the coastal town of Hampton, more than 800 people were turned away and a second hall at the school had to be opened for those who were prepared to hear but not see her speak.
According to The Age, until now, Senator Clinton has focused on her experience rather than on attacking. (ANI)
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