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Kerry Conquers New Hampshire

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts easily won New Hampshire's Democratic presidential primary, according to CBS News estimates. Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, was a solid second.

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and retired Gen. Wesley Clark were in a close race for third place. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut was further back in fifth.

"It's an enormous victory, a huge turnaround," Kerry told The Associated Press. "We were written off for months, and plugged on and showed people the determination we have to defeat President Bush."

Coming on the heels of his surprise win in last week's Iowa caucus, Tuesday's victory made Kerry the undisputed front-runner in the race to take on Mr. Bush in November.

With 194 of 301 precincts reporting, Kerry had 39 percent of the vote, followed by Dean with 25 percent, Clark 13 percent, Edwards 12 percent and Lieberman 9 percent. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and the Rev. Al Sharpton trailed far behind the pack.

CBS News exit polls show New Hampshire voters were angry – about the economy, about health care and about the war in Iraq. Independents came out in large numbers, looking for someone who can beat President Bush.

Nearly half of voters, 47 percent, said they were angry about the Bush administration, and another 37 percent described themselves as dissatisfied, but not angry. Thirteen percent said they were satisfied with the administration.

As in Iowa, issues worked to Kerry's advantage in New Hampshire. Health care came in as the most important issue to voters' decisions, and Kerry was leading among these voters. The economy was the second most important issue for voters, and Kerry lead even more strongly among these voters. Dean did best among voters who said Iraq was the most important issue in their vote, about one-fifth of the electorate.

The CBS News exit poll was conducted for the National Election Pool by Edison/Mitofsky. The poll included 1,818 voters leaving the polls, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Dean's loss of momentum in January seems to have doomed him to second place. While he easily carried voters who decided before January, his momentum stalled leading up to and directly following Iowa. Dean only began to catch Kerry again in the final three days of the campaign.

"It looks like we are going to finish a solid second, but not any better in the New Hampshire primary, which is certainly better than finishing the third we did in Iowa," Dean told reporters.

Edwards said he was happy with his finish Tuesday because it showed he was the candidate who consistently was improving each week.

The 12 percent of the vote he had in early returns in New Hampshire was a vast improvement over the single-digit support he had in the polls immediately after his second-place showing in Iowa last week, Edwards said.

"It's important for me to show I can move up," Edwards said.

Clark and Lieberman, both of whom skipped Iowa, sought a solid showing in New Hampshire to keep their hopes alive. Lieberman's chances appeared to be in peril following his fifth-place finish, but the campaign denied reports that it was shutting down operations.

Temperatures in the teens and 20s didn't keep voters home, as Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicted that voter turnout would set a record, with about 184,000 voting in the Democratic primary and another 116,000 casting ballots in the basically uncontested Republican primary.

CBSNews.com Chief Political Writer David Kuhn reports that in Ward 8, one of 12 in Manchester, voters first arrived at 6 a.m. By 9 a.m., more than 450 of the Ward's 9,480 registered voters had turned out. They entered the yellow gym in the small Jewett Elementary School, checked in at the little brown tables and went behind the barbershop-like curtains. Colors: red, white and blue.

Outside the school, supporters of Dean, Clark and Kerry brandished signs and bounced cheers off one another like ping-pong balls, reports Kuhn.

The first votes were cast in ritual fashion shortly after midnight in the northern hamlets of Dixville Notch and Hart's Location. Clark had 14, Kerry eight, Edwards and Dean four each, and Lieberman one.

The primary was open to independents, who traditionally vote in large numbers.

At stake in New Hampshire were not only 22 national convention delegates but the political momentum that comes with winning the first primary.

After Iowa and New Hampshire, the nomination battle goes nationwide, starting with a seven-state contest Feb. 3, where airport rallies and multimillion-dollar ad campaigns replace the handshake-to-handshake coziness of small-state politics.

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