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CNN Today

New Hampshire Primaries: Voting Heavy, Possibly Record-Level at Polling Stations

Aired February 1, 2000 - 2:20 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: It is indeed, as you say, primary day here in New Hampshire, which finds two competitive races, predictions by state officials, election officials, of a possible record turnout and candidacies that will rise or fall on the results.

In the Democratic race, the final pre-election poll showed Al Gore leading Bill Bradley, but different polls are offering different margins, and this race, like the Republican race, could hang on last- minute decisions by voters, especially Independents and those who haven't made up their minds last time they were called by the pollsters. To that extent, Gore says he plans to campaign full blast today, right up to the very end.

For his part, Bill Bradley says if he fails to beat Gore among New Hampshire voters today, he expects to get pressure from unnamed Democrats to bow out of the race. He says he won't do that. He says he's fighting "entrenched power" -- his words -- and that's what his campaign is all about. So, Bradley says he's closing on Gore, but he concedes he may have waited long, too late to launch his recent attacks on Gore's truthfulness and his record on abortion rights, among other issues.

And among the Republicans, the final polls before today's vote depict a two-man race, with John McCain holding what appears to be a lead over Texas Governor George W. Bush. Once again, we caution the precise numbers vary according to poll, and this race appears competitive. Some are calling New Hampshire a must-win for McCain in his effort to establish himself as a viable national alternative for the Republican front-runner George W. Bush. Despite apparently trailing McCain, Bush today is predicting he'll win. Outside a polling station early this morning Bush greeted voters, as you see here. He later withdrew when the voters expressed annoyance at the media scrum around Bush. Forenoon, Bush told reporters he was headed for his hotel to watch a movie with his wife and his daughters.

It has been so chaotic outside some polling stations at times. Voters have had a tough time getting past the candidates, swarms of curious onlookers and the media.

CNN's Charles Zewe join us from a Manchester polling site, where he's trying to gauge the mood and get a feel for voter turnout.

Charles, what are you concluding as you watch the day go by? CHARLES ZEWE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Frank, I'm concluding that people are very enthusiastic about voting, today, very serious about voting today, and the turnout right here in ward 12, which is in the northwestern part of New -- of Manchester, is very heavy.

Right now, let me show you something that's fairly unique to New Hampshire. These people have shown up, and they are registering on election day at the polls. That's something that you can do here in New Hampshire; you can register as a Republican, Democrat or Independent. There are about 4,000, a little bit more than 4,000 voters registered in this particular ward, and of that number about 1,000 are undecided, undeclared, independent voters.

Already today back here, about 190 people have signed up today for the first time. Most of them have been Independent. This is why it gets to be crucial, because when you come to this table and declare how you want to vote, ladies here will ask you, do you want to vote Republican or Democrat, and it's at that point that the independent voter can say, I'm voting Republican today or I'm voting Democrat, and that's where the power here comes into play, particularly in a tight election.

There have been people coming here all day long in large numbers, and officials here are saying it may be a record turnout of 65 to 70 percent here at this particular precinct.

Now, right next door to the adult voting that's been going on today, hundreds of the school children who go to school at this school which is where the precinct is located have been taking part in something called Kids Voting USA. This is not the first time this has been done, but it is something that has been done now for 12 years across the country, and like the adults here in New Hampshire voting first in the presidential campaign this year in the primaries, so too are the kids. The teachers say it's all about getting them involved in the election process early.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LYDIA LECLAIR, TEACHER: The parent and the child can, you know, come to the polls, discuss political issues and get parents, as well as children, to the polls. As the children learn more and more about the voting process, it then instills in them as they become adults that voting is something that they should take serious and that voting is, you know, making choices so that they can change our political system if they want or they can keep it the way that it is.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I voted for John McCain.

ZEWE: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Because I thought he would be a good leader for the 21st century.

ZEWE: Did you see that on TV? Where did you get that?

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I don't know. ZEWE: Have you been reading about him?

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: No.

ZEWE: Did you see any of his commercials on TV?

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Some.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I voted for George W. Bush.

ZEWE: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Because I just had to pick someone. I had no clue...

ZEWE: Who did you vote for?

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Al Gore.

ZEWE: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Because I think he has more experience than everybody else because he was the vice president.

ZEWE: Who did you vote for?

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Secret ballot. I can't tell you, man. I'm sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZEWE: Secret ballot. People take it seriously here. About 1,400 people have voted here so far.

This is Rick Olson (ph), one of the polling moderators.

How's it looking? Is this going to be a record here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really hard to say at this point in time. I believe it is. Out of 4,037 total voters that are registered, there's been considerable numbers that have re-registered or new voters that have registered, and we've got, as you stated, the number of ballots cast.

ZEWE: Thank you very much.

That's the scene here at ward 12: Heavy voting.

Charles Zewe, CNN, live, Manchester, New Hampshire.

SESNO: These are crucial votes being cast today. First, they are the first straight votes being cast in campaign 2000. Secondly, they will ratify, quite likely, stature as front-runner or challenger both the Democratic and Republican Parties. And finally, they will give us a great indication as to what is to come, especially as the candidates head to March 7th, the big primary day, which stretches races -- connects races from New York through Ohio and California. Very important votes being cast today.

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