Sen. John McCain took the Republican primary in New Hampshire Tuesday with rural votes — and Sen. Hillary Clinton won despite vote from rural communities.
Both McCain and Clinton won upset victories in the first full primary of the 2008 primary season. McCain, the Arizona senator, was out of money and out of prospects late last summer. And New York's Clinton was down by double-digit margins to Sen. Barack Obama in a range of polls released a day before the vote.
Both came back to win, but did so in entirely different parts of the state.
Sen. McCain won 40 percent of the rural New Hampshire vote, compared to the 26 percent picked up by his nearest rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. McCain won 37 percent of the toal vote in New Hampshire.
On the Democratic side, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won 39 percent of the rural New Hampshire vote. Clinton picked up 35 percent.
Clinton won the state because she collected 42 percent of the vote from those New Hampshire counties within the Boston metropolitan region. Obama won just 35 percent of the city vote.
Three New Hampshire counties are within the Boston metropolitan area. (In these counties, less than a third of the population lives in rural communities.) They are Hillsborough, Rockingham and Stafford. The state's other seven counties are all largely rural.
Most of rural New Hampshire votes more Democratic than the urban counties along the southern border of the state. Only two rural New Hampshire counties — Belknap and Carroll — voted for George W. Bush in the 2004 election.
The state's colleges are in rural counties, and Obama won these counties. (The Illinois senator won 60 percent of those voters 18 to 24 years of age.) But the votes were close in these counties, perhaps because former president Bill Clinton was dispatched to rural New Hampshire the day before the election, speaking at Dartmouth College the night before the vote.
Local-level perspectives on the race saw Clinton’s victory differently. State Rep. Jim Ryan, according to a report in The Citizen of Laconia, “said it was the blue-collar and small towns that put (Clinton) over the top.” Ryan had chaired Joe Biden's New Hampshire campaign, backing Clinton after the Delaware senator withdrew from the race. In Ryan's hometown of Franklin (central New Hampshire), Clinton won convincingly: 777 votes to Obama's 452.
Pat Clark, an Obama supporter in nearby Tilton, remarked that the Clinton campaign had stationed workers at every polling place.
Though in 2004 George Bush won Carroll County (east central New Hampshire, along the Maine border), election officials in Conway reported a record number of Democratic ballots cast yesterday. Former state senator Mark Hounsell told the Daily Sun, “The question that comes out of Conway, if not statewide, is, has this town become a Democratic stronghold”¦If I were (U.S. Senator) John E. Sununu (incumbent Republican) I’d be a little worried.”
Mary E. Johnson, an elections official in Winchester (far southwestern New Hampshire) for more than half a century, told the Keene Sentinel that a record number of voters had registered undeclared. "People don't want to be labeled anymore," she said.
“In Hinsdale, (SW New Hampshire) polls workers reported that by 4 p.m. 60 new voters had registered, most of them described as “˜young people.'”
National television news stations announced that many New Hampshire voters remained undecided until January 8th. The Concord newspaper spoke with a number of these 11th-hour supporters once they had voted. Here’s a smattering of election-day reasoning from the Concord Monitor:
Kerry Bird, 65, of Concord, voted for Huckabee:
“I was so dissatisfied with all the other candidates. Huckabee came to the company I worked for (Delta Dental), and he seemed to be reasonable. I liked the fact that he didn't claim to know more than a few of the answers (to questions). He'll get people to lead him, and then he'll get the answers.”
Mark Chiarenza, 43, of Franklin, voted for Romney:
"Didn't decide till I was sitting there. I like Ron Paul, but I don't like his stand on the war. I chose Mitt because I think Washington needs to get rid of politicians."
Patti Smith, 55, of Hopkinton, voted for Obama:
"I walked in and went up and down, and I said, okay, I'm going to be hopeful and positive. (Hillary Clinton) knows how to get things done, but I wanted to show the young people today that there is hope."
Vernon Miller, 51, of Hopkinton, voted for Richardson:
"This became a strategic move. I know he won't win, but having more votes for him makes him a stronger V.P. candidate."
Angeline Obara, 37, of Weare, voted for McCain:
"It was a toss-up because I really like Huckabee. If he was doing better in the polls, I would have thought about it. I didn't want to see Romney get in."
Sue O'Connor, 66, of Concord, voted for Clinton:
"I was going to vote for (John) Edwards, but then I was watching The View (yesterday) morning and they showed (Clinton) saying something about how she hoped to change things. She sounded choked up. It made me feel she's sincere about what she wanted to do."