New Hampshire Turnout Looks Huge as Nation Awaits First Primary Results

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New Hampshire Turnout Looks Huge as Nation Awaits First Primary Results

Voters in the Granite State are leaning toward Bernie Sanders as he enters primary with double-digit lead over Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire on Tuesday where a record turnout is now expected for the first-in-the-nation primary. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

New Hampshire voters are heading the ballot box for the first-in-the-nation presidential primary on Tuesday, with record turnouts reported across the state throughout the day and half a million Granite State residents predicted to cast votes. Polls close statewide at 7pm EST.

Bernie Sanders scored a largely symbolic but auspicious early-morning win in the small district of Dixville Notch, which historically opens the primary. The U.S. senator from Vermont headed into the primary with a double-digit lead over national frontrunner Hillary Clinton. 

Local WMUR was among local media outlets offering election returns, here.

Meanwhile, the Concord Monitor is providing live updates from the ground, while reactions are being shared on Twitter under the hashtag #NHPrimary.

Small crowds supporting Clinton and Sanders reportedly faced off in a "sign war" outside of a polling place in Ward 5, hoisting posters and chanting, "This is what democracy looks like!" and "Hey hey! Ho Ho! Super PACs have got to go!"

Sanders lost last Monday's Iowa caucus to Clinton by the slimmest of margins, one that was only determined after the Democratic rivals stayed in a "virtual tie" throughout the night.

However, as NPR writes on Tuesday, "Margins matter."

"[Clinton's] minuscule victory in Iowa gave her no momentum at all in New Hampshire," says NPR's Mara Liasson. "So a big, double-digit win for Sanders would give him a huge boost heading into next week's Nevada caucuses, where the Clinton campaign is hoping its union-based 'firewall' is still strong."

The Atlantic adds:

There’s a quirk in New Hampshire’s primary process that could prove important. Voters who aren’t registered with either party—about 40 percent of the state’s electorate—can choose which race they want to vote in. Twenty-three percent of voters in New Hampshire had not made up their mind on whether they’ll cast their votes in the Democratic or Republican primaries, according to a WBUR poll taken from February 2-4.

[....] The WBUR poll found their interest fairly evenly split. If they swing toward greater participation in the Democratic race, that would increase Sanders’s margin; if more voters choose Republican ballots, that could power John Kasich into a second-place finish, the poll found.

Sanders' growing popularity among voters seems to have unnerved the Clinton campaign, with the frontrunner herself accusing him of conducting an "artful smear" against her record. Some of Clinton's more high-profile supporters, including Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright, also publicly chastised the female voters who have chosen to support Sanders over Clinton.

Those attacks largely seemed to backfire just as the New Hampshire primary came into view. Meanwhile, Steinem attempted to walk back her comments and Clinton ran damage control on Albright's.

Jeff Weaver, Sanders' campaign manager, said Monday, "It is very disturbing that, as the Clinton campaign struggles through Iowa and New Hampshire, they have become increasingly negative and dishonest."

Still, polls last week showed New Hampshire voters already favored Sanders. For many observers, the question has become less about whether Clinton will lose, but by how much. As The Hill reports:

Losing New Hampshire by a substantial margin after just barely winning Iowa could create doubt among voters in the upcoming contests in Nevada and South Carolina, states with more racially diverse electorates where Clinton now has substantial leads.

Those so-called "substantial leads," however, have proven much more vulnerable than a large number of political observers previously thought.

With attention focused on which way New Hampshire voters go in terms of the making their choice for the Democratic nominee, the respective Twitter feeds of both campaigns will continue to use social media to engage their supporters and frame the results:

@BernieSanders  @HillaryClinton

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