New Hampshire to see a volatile Democratic primary
Trump flies in and takes aim at leftist Sanders while billionaire Bloomberg wins in tiny town of five
DURHAM, NEW HAMPSHIRE : The Democrats have braced themselvesfor a volatile primary in New Hampshire yesterday as leftist Bernie Sanders and youthful challenger Pete Buttigieg lead the charge to see who will face Republican President Donald Trump in November's presidential election.
Tensions have risen steadily as voters headed to polls across the north-eastern battleground, which has just 1.3 million people but plays a hugely influential role in the US political landscape.
New Hampshire hosts the nation's first primary, eight days after Iowa kicked off the nomination process, and it could narrow the Democratic field of 11 current candidates.
White House hopefuls have been courting votes in the state's farm country, lakeside towns and mountain hamlets, seeking a spark that could ignite a run that carries them to the Democratic nomination.
Tiny Dixville Notch - population five - voted first at one minute after midnight yesterday, as it traditionally does.
"There is a certain amount of pride to being here," said Mr Tom Tillotson, who was managing the midnight vote. "We take this seriously. We are humbled and honoured to be... basically the starting gun for the primary election process."
In a surprise, billionaire Michael Bloomberg won in Dixville Notch with one Republican and two Democratic votes.
Mr Buttigieg and Mr Sanders each earned one vote.
As New Hampshire endures its quadrennial close-up with candidates making last-gasp campaign swings, an anxious Democratic Party is struggling to find the right path to defeating Mr Trump.
Will it be the "political revolution" espoused by Mr Sanders, a self-declared democratic socialist? Or the more moderate tacks from either Mr Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, or former vice-president Joe Biden?
Complicating the vote are independents - who outnumber both Democrats and Republicans in the state.
Mr Trump jetted to New Hampshire on Monday aiming to steal the limelight with a rally.
"Remember this: Washington Democrats have never been more extreme," he told cheering supporters.
"We are saving your healthcare while the socialist Democrats are trying to take away your healthcare."
The remark appeared to be aimed at Mr Sanders, the Vermont senator, buoyed by a strong showing in Iowa last week and a poll that claimed he was the national front runner for the first time.
The survey also showed Mr Bloomberg vaulting into third place behind Mr Biden.
Firing up his supporters with promises to slash inequalities and overhaul the healthcare system with his Medicare-for-all plan, Mr Sanders said: "Tomorrow is a historically important day. Let's win this thing, let's transform America!"
The attendees at the Durham rally of 7,500 people roared: "Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!"
The rally showcased his growing stature, particularly among young voters. - AFP