In just minutes, final polls close in New Hampshire, and the candidates await results in the state's presidential primary contests.
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The latest polls are just about to close in New Hampshire, and we'll soon learn the answers to some of the key questions in the first in the nation primary. In the busy GOP race, will the results narrow the field? For the Democrats, will a win for Bernie Sanders mean a long primary battle with Hillary Clinton? Here in the studio we have NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson and joining us from New Hampshire, NPR's Ailsa Chang and Sarah McCammon. And first we're going to begin with Sarah because you are at Trump headquarters tonight, right? Tell us the scene there.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Well, it is full of energy, maybe even verging on chaos. It's really, really busy, lots of people here at this banquet hall in Manchester. When I got here over an hour ago, the parking lots were already full. People were parking in neighboring businesses' lots, big lines out the door. Even the media line was chaotic, trying to get everyone in - just a lot of interest in this event. And as the returns are starting to come in - very early returns - I've heard some cheers going out. It is very early, but things looking good for Trump at least so far. And the crowd here is excited.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Of course, this is a state where Trump has held a wide lead in polls for a long time, so he was hoping-slash-expecting a win going into tonight. Ailsa Chang, tell us about where you are.
AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: (Laughter) I'm at Concord High School inside the gymnasium. The Bernie Sanders watch party is - they're slowly filtering in. This event has been ticketed for a thousand people. Clearly, most people have not arrived. And the people here - I would say there's a huge chunk of people just sitting on the bleachers, holding a future to believe in signs and just sort of staring off into space right now. So not a ton of energy, even though a victory has been widely anticipated among this crowd.
CORNISH: OK, we were just talking about expectations here, anticipation, and that means we should bring in Mara Liasson. And, Mara, I'd like to talk to you about the clues you're looking for in the results tonight.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Well, I'm looking for a couple things. For Donald Trump - does he expand his reach to voters with college educations? That's an area where he's been weak in the past. For Hillary Clinton - how does she do among Democrats? If we assume that Bernie Sanders is going to get the lion's share of independents, how does she do among Democrats? For John Kasich - same thing - how does he do among regular Republicans, not just independents? 'Cause that gives you a clue about their strength going forward into states that have different kinds of electorates.
CORNISH: And are there certain parts of the state that we should be keeping an eye on?
LIASSON: Well, we should certainly be keeping an eye on the southeast. That's the big population centers, and that is where Hillary Clinton did best last time. That's how she beat Barack Obama. We assume that Bernie Sanders is going to do well in the three counties bordering Vermont. But we also think he's probably going to do well across the state, but we want to see - if she is going to close the gap with Sanders, she has to do really well in those southeastern counties.
SHAPIRO: NPR's political editor Domenico Montanaro is also here in the studio with us. And, Domenico, we do have some numbers that we can talk about. What can we definitively say about who voted and what that might suggest about how tonight's going to do?
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Right, barely any numbers at this point because the polls - some of them have closed at 7 o'clock, but most of them are going - or all of them will close at 8. So some numbers just sort of trickling in at this point. But we have seen some of the exit poll numbers, and we should stress that these exit poll numbers do change. But a more liberal electorate than in 2008 on the Democratic side.
SHAPIRO: On the Democratic side.
MONTANARO: You had 41 percent of Democrats wanting continuity with President Obama, but 40 percent saying they wanted more liberal policies. You also had a big difference in opinion between Republicans and Democrats on the issues, what was most important. Republicans' issues of concern were things like the economy, government, terrorism. Democrats, on the other hand, terrorism way down at the bottom of the list. So you see very different priorities. For Democrats, income inequality was the top issue. And as we know, Bernie Sanders has been making that his top issue for 40 years.
CORNISH: Which is really interesting because New Hampshire doesn't have as rocky an economy as many other states are experiencing.
MONTANARO: That's right. But, you know, when people look at whether or not they think the system is "rigged," quote, unquote, that's sort of what they're looking at. They're not looking at how am I doing financially necessarily? They're looking at the system and whether or not they think that it's a fair shake for everyone to be able to move up the economic ladder. So that's a big part of it, but then when you move forward, I mean, you're going to see a big difference in Democrats in the South in places like South Carolina, places like Nevada, when the electorate's much more diverse.
SHAPIRO: Let's go back to NPR's Sarah McCammon who is at Trump headquarters. And, Sarah, we know that Republicans were much later deciders in this primary than the Democrats were. What does that mean for Trump? How are Trump people feeling as they start to get these early results?
MCCAMMON: You know what - in talking to Trump's staff here in New Hampshire today, they were feeling very confident. I mean, I think they looked at the poll numbers and, you know, Trump's big, big lead in the polls and put some stock in that. They also have a big ground game here. And they told me they had hundreds of volunteers just yesterday making phone calls and, you know, knocking on doors to get out the vote. More of that going on today. They told me they're very confident of a win. Of course, the poll numbers didn't hold up in Iowa, but, you know, Trump had a smaller lead in those polls. So I think they're feeling good. Trump really needs to win tonight. He needs- you know, his whole campaign has been - a theme has been winning, and he needs to show that he can actually do that.
SHAPIRO: And that move from big thousand-plus people rallies to doorknocking does seem like a very big change for Trump from Iowa to New Hampshire.
MCCAMMON: Yeah. I mean, he's known for these huge rallies, and he loves to talk about the turnout and the thousands of people at them. But, you know, he had some events this week, you know, yesterday that were, you know, just a couple hundred people at small, like, Elks Lodges and Legion Halls, those kinds of, you know, really conventional campaign techniques and campaign rally settings, much smaller, much more person to person. And, you know, I asked his campaign about that. They said that's just what you do in the days before an election. But it does seem like a departure from his usual MO. And I think it, you know, it may be a way of really making sure that he gets out the vote.
CORNISH: And, Ailsa Chang, just a few seconds to you. Can you talk a little about Bernie Sanders' final pitch to voters? What was he out there saying?
CHANG: (Laughter) Basically the same thing he's been saying the last four decades. But last night at the event at University of New Hampshire, he called out to the young voters in the crowd - about 1,500 of them - and said, look, democracy is not a spectator sport. I need you most of all, you guys to turn out tomorrow and vote. So, you know, his stump speech has been the same over and over again. He's angry and people are cheering, and the whole place is exuberant when he's giving that same stump speech. But basically his plea is if you stick with me, we can make a difference. It's time for a political revolution.
SHAPIRO: Mara, when we were having this conversation about Iowa a week ago, we were sort of downplaying how Iowa doesn't reflect the nation. How much are tonight's results in New Hampshire going to reflect the ultimate outcome that we might see at the end of this primary contest?
LIASSON: Well, first of all, New Hampshire and Iowa, for the Democratic side, are more - much more liberal and much more white than the rest of the Democratic primary states. So I don't think this is necessarily representative, but it does tell you the kind of antiestablishment sentiment that's in the Democratic Party. But I don't think this is a fair predictor of the end. The other thing about New Hampshire, which is famous for making fools of pollsters and frontrunners, is the people who surge late in New Hampshire often prosper. And we don't know what happened in those last 24 hours. It's very hard to poll on that.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Mara Liasson, also Domenico Montanaro, Sarah McCammon, Ailsa Chang in the field. We're going to have a lot more coverage tonight. And you can also join us online at npr.org and on many NPR stations for continuing coverage of the New Hampshire primary. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.