NH vote could reshape the presidential fieldStaff Report
February 08. 2016 11:30PM
Granite Staters head to the polls today to cast the nation’s first primary ballots and possibly recast the presidential field.
Republican and Democratic candidates are making last-minute stops and visiting polling places.
Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicts record turnout with 550,000 votes — 282,000 Republican ballots and 268,000 Democratic ballots. There are 882,950 registered voters, and all eyes turn to the undeclared voters, who may vote in either primary.
Gardner tells the Union Leader that the snowfall overnight should have little effect on the first-in-the-nation primary, which is the 100th New Hampshire primary.
Besides those undeclared voters, sometimes called independents, there are 13 towns worth watching as potential bellwethers.
East Kingston, Lancaster, Newmarket, Pembroke, Rochester, Sanbornton and Washington have always voted for the Republican primary winner, every four years since 1952.
Epping, Hudson, Kingston, Laconia, Merrimack and Rollinsford have picked the Democratic winner since 1952, when the state law was changed to allow for voters to cast a ballot for the candidate, not his or her delegates.
The 2016 primary trends feature non-establishment and Washington outsiders shaking up the race, said Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics & Political Library at St. Anselm College.
This trend runs true with billionaire businessman and reality television star Donald Trump leading the GOP field and self-described Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders’ surge and lead in New Hampshire over Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton.
Republican primary voters have had their pick of well-known candidates.
At one point, there were close to 20 major Republican candidates.