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Warm weather, exciting race bring out N.H. voters

January 8, 2008 |  2:30 pm

Hudson, N.H. -- Two things they have a lot of in New Hampshire today: Snow, and voters.

Turnout here, as predicted, looks to be impressive. Secretary of State William M. Gardner estimated earlier in the week that 500,000 voters, about 60% of those registered, would cast primary ballots -- a record if it happens. Among the state's crucial independent voters, he expected 90,000 would cast ballots in the Democratic primary, about 60,000 in the Republican primary.

Turnout was so high officials reportedly are concerned about running out of ballots in some places.

Here in Hudson, across the Merrimack River from Nashua, the crush at midday had cars backed up waiting for parking spots to open up. Of eight people interviewed as they left the site, one had voted for Republican Ron Paul, two for Democrat Hillary Clinton and five for Barack Obama.

Maryann Hall, 58, a substitute school teacher and registered independent, said she never needs motivation to vote. This year she went for Obama -- a decision she didn't reach until breakfast time. "It was between McCain and him, actually," Hall said as fellow voters streamed past outside the Hudson Community Center, a gym-sized building with snowmelt dripping from the roof edge. "I like more of [Obama's] qualities. McCain, his military experience I like, I guess the comfort zone with security thing. But I think maybe we need a change from that."

High turnout was happening across the state. In the ...

seaside city of Portsmouth, supporters of Obama, Clinton, John McCain and Bill Richardson waved signs and chanted along Market Square, our colleague James Rainey reported. A young crowd of Obama supporters were the most energized, he said, as they responded to honking horns with thumbs thrust skyward. Across the square, in front of a historic church where George Washington once worshipped, an older crowd of partisans waved placards for Clinton.

"The turnout is amazing," said Obama volunteer Carolyn Thomas. "We are having such beautiful, balmy weather for the season. People are coming in to vote, steady, steady steady. All ages too. Its really wonderful."

Our colleague Robin Abcarian, also in Portsmouth, kept stumbling across Obama supporters, too. Hannah Philp, 22, is in the running for the "farthest traveled" award. From Scotland, she recently graduated from the University of Edinburgh, where she majored in political science, and arrived in New Hampshire Thursday with four friends to pitch in on the Obama campaign.

Wearing a short black and white houndstooth skirt and turtleneck in the unseasonably balmy weather, Philp stood in the town square holding a four-by-eight foot Obama sign with a friend. She wrote her undergraduate thesis, she said, on the New Hampshire primary and served a 2006 internship with New Hampshire state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, a Portsmouth Democrat, in 2006. Though she is Scottish, she said she, too, has a stake in who becomes the next American president. "I'm very excited, very energized," she said.

-- Scott Martelle