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New Hampshire Becomes New Battleground for US Presidential Candidates


New Hampshire is the new battleground for U.S. candidates seeking the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations. The state is home to the nation's first presidential primary next Tuesday and recent public opinion surveys say the political races are very close. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details in this report from Manchester, New Hampshire.

The day after the Iowa caucuses, the top Republican and Democratic candidates descended on the northeastern state of New Hampshire, where the next major contest will be held in the presidential race.

Dante Scala, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, says Illinois Senator Barack Obama is expected to get a major boost from his victory in Iowa.

"Barack Obama has shown that he is for real and that is going to have a big effect on undeclared, independent voters here in New Hampshire," he said.

New Hampshire's independent voters, those who are not registered for the Democratic or Republican parties, makeup about 45 percent of the electorate.

Obama, who is campaigning to be the first black man elected as America's president, easily defeated former Senator John Edwards and New York Senator and former first lady Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses.

Scala says a majority of New Hampshire's independent voters are planning to cast their ballots in the Democratic primary and many are leaning toward voting for Obama after his victory in the Iowa caucuses.

"So the worry for Hillary Clinton is not that she is not going to get her vote out, because she has got the organization to do that," he said. "The worry for her has to be that her turnout will be swamped by undeclared voters, who are Democratic leaning, turning out for Obama next Tuesday."

At Obama's headquarters here in Manchester more than 100 supporters are making phone calls to voters, urging them to support their candidate.

Laura Tsunoda, who is 18 years old and lives across the country in San Diego, California, is a typical Obama volunteer.

"It is a really compelling time," she said. "It is such an important election and such an interesting year. This is a candidate who I feel so inspired by and I feel really lucky to be a part of it."

Regarding the Republican candidates, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, relied heavily on support from evangelical Christians to win a decisive victory in Iowa.

In New Hampshire, polls say he currently trails former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Arizona Senator John McCain.

Political analyst Dante Scala says McCain, who won the New Hampshire primary during an unsuccessful bid for president in 2000, is winning support from voters who had backed former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

"For the last couple of weeks John McCain is the only Republican in New Hampshire who has had significant momentum," he said. "He gained that momentum by stealing it from Rudy Giuliani. As Giuliani has slipped and slipped in the polls, those moderate Republicans up here who are thinking about Giuliani are going back to old familiar, they are going back to John McCain."

Between now and next Tuesday the presidential candidates will be campaigning throughout New Hampshire. They have scheduled debates and are flooding the airwaves with television commercials.

Scala says the main issues of concern for voters here include the war in Iraq, the war on terror, health care and illegal immigration.