Massive Turnout In New Hampshire Primary
New Hampshire voters are reportedly flocking to the ballot boxes in such record numbers today that they’re running out of ballots — amid signs that many independent voters were opting to vote in the Democratic race.
That’s likely to mean another big win for Democratic Senator Barack Obama and another loss for longtime front-runner Senator Hillary Clinton. The other candidate who is widely believed to likely benefit from any independent voter spike would be Republican Arizona Senator John McCain, who won there in 2000. But some analysts believe independents voting for Obama could in the end deprive McCain of a victory.
But until the ballots are counted, that’s speculative. What’s is definite is the turnout:
Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicted a record turnout and some polling places reported they were in danger of running out of ballots. Lines formed at some voting stations before they opened at 6 a.m., according to local news reports. One state election official described the turnout as “absolutely huge” and it was added to by a springlike day.
Turnout was particularly high in Portsmouth and Keene — both of which are overwhelmingly Democratic, as well as Republican-leaning Hudson — And some towns were running out of Democratic ballots, with independents favoring that contest over the GOP race.
At this point is heavier than it was four years ago — a positive sign for Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., both of whom are depending on large numbers of independent voters to back them in their primary races.
What does all this mean? Some weblog reaction:
We hope this is a sign of things to come all across the country and the same enthusiasm exists when we get to the general election come November. The N.Y. Times has more here. Americans are waking up and smelling the coffee. Change is gonna come.
Conventional wisdom has McCain benefiting from a big turnout — but in this open primary, that depends on the behavior of independents. If most of them decide to cast their votes in the Democratic primary, McCain could find himself struggling. He appeals more to independent Granite State voters, who appreciate his maverick tendencies. If he can’t get a big enough boost from independents, he may slip out of the lead while Romney collects the Republican votes. It could change the entire dynamic of McCain’s rise over the last few weeks — which may wind up benefiting Obama instead.
Presumably, this is especially good news for Barack Obama, who one would expect would be the beneficiary of “new” voters. Conversely, it would seem bad for John McCain, who is expected to draw especially well among “independents.”
Whether the high Democratic turnout is an indication primarily of Obama’s lure or the excitement of finally having a truly competitive race won’t be known until we see the exit polls. I would have expected independents to swing towards the Republican contest, given that the polls show Obama winning comfortably while McCain and Romney are neck-and-neck.
Also according to MSNBC, more than half of Republican voters today are either dissatisfied or angry about George W. Bush. Not a whole lot of love for the President, even among his party base.
UPDATE: The Christian Science Monitor says New Hampshire is turning blue:
The Republican Party in New England’s only “red state” may be going the way of the Old Man of the Mountain, the craggy icon of independence that crumbled a few years back in a rock slide.
In the last election, Democrats took both seats in Congress for the first time in nearly a century and both houses of the legislature for the first time since 1874. Democratic Gov. John Lynch won a second term with a record 74 percent of the vote, and lawmakers recently authorized same-sex civil unions and a smoking ban in bars and restaurants.
The “Live Free or Die” state is becoming “Blue Hampshire.” The Granite State, said a blog for the conservative National Review, is “trending alarmingly Granola State.”
The shift, driven by an influx of new residents, injects a new dynamic into the first-in-the-nation presidential primary here Tuesday. In 2000, some 62 percent of New Hampshire’s independent voters – who can take part in either party’s primary – cast a ballot in the GOP race, lifting Sen. John McCain to victory.
This time, however, the proportions may well be reversed. As many as two-thirds of independents at the polls Tuesday are expected to vote Democratic, shrinking the pool of free-thinking, late-deciding voters responsible for Senator McCain’s triumph in 2000 and throwing a windfall to Sen. Barack Obama, who was buoyed by independents in Iowa.
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