The New Hampshire Democratic primary is in the national limelight as a tight race and two dropouts have defined the "starting gun" voting.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is less than 2 percentage points ahead of Indiana ex-mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is followed by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, according to a real-time tally by CNN.
Several U.S. media outlets have projected Sanders the winner in New Hampshire.
Garrett Gagnon, a resident of Manchester, New Hampshire, told Xinhua that he voted for Sanders because he thinks the progressive who supports "Medicare-for-All," a single-payer national health insurance program for all U.S. residents, has "the correct platform."
Sanders declared victory in a New Hampshire rally after the projections were announced, while Buttigieg at his rally congratulated the Vermont senator on the result.
According to the primary rules of the Democratic Party, New Hampshire's 24 pledged delegates will be allocated to the three contenders proportionally based on the results of the primary.
A number of other Democrats, including U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, are not expected to earn any delegates from New Hampshire, as none of them are projected to meet a 15-percent threshold to be considered viable.
Tuesday's Democratic primary in New Hampshire came over a week after the party's caucuses in Iowa, in which Buttigieg and Sanders were also neck-and-neck.
Sitting President Donald Trump is projected to win the Granite State's Republican primary, also held on Tuesday, as he was facing no major challenges in the party. In a late night tweet, he touted the victory and claimed that "there is nothing too fabulous" on the Democratic side.
In 2016, Trump won New Hampshire's GOP primary, although he lost the state to his then Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, in the November election by a 0.4-percent margin.
The New Hampshire primaries, the first voting events of this election cycle, began after midnight Tuesday, with the first group of voters casting ballots in several rural places, including Dixville Notch, a northern town close to the Canadian border.
"Midnight voting in New Hampshire, along with New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation status, basically becomes the starting gun for the race," Tom Tillotson, Dixville Notch's election moderator, told Xinhua.
Two Democratic candidates, tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, ended their campaigns shortly after polls closed in New Hampshire on Tuesday evening.
"I am the math guy, and it is clear tonight from the numbers that we are not going to win this race," Yang told supporters. "I am not someone who wants to accept donations and support in a race that we will not win. And so tonight I am announcing I am suspending my campaign for president."
David Axelrod, director of the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics, called Yang "a breath of fresh air in the race."
"A unique, humane and often humorous voice, who shone a light on the impact of technological change and offered bold, thoughtful answers," Axelrod tweeted. "This is not the last we will hear from him."
Bennett, in a tweet, said New Hampshire could see him once again.
Nine contenders remain for the Democratic Party's nomination to challenge Trump. Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts, said Tuesday that he will soon "make some decisions" on the future of his Democratic presidential campaign.
Biden, who is leading in national polls amid lackluster performances in both Iowa and New Hampshire, is turning to Nevada and South Carolina, the next two states in the Democratic nominating process.
"We just heard from the first two of 50 states. Two of them. Not all the nation, not half the nation, not a quarter of the nation, not 10 percent -- two. Two," Biden told supporters in South Carolina. "Where I come from that's the opening bell, not the closing bell."
Nancy Cooney, from Boston, Massachusetts, told Xinhua that she supports Biden and feels he's the "best person positioned to unite the Democratic Party," although she has concerns about his performance so far in the race.
"I think that he probably will do better in some of the other, later primaries for sure," said Cooney. "But it's kind of unclear now who's gonna be able to, you know, pull it all together."
(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)