MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — The number of voters in the Democratic presidential primary broke the record set in 2008 during the competitive race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
More than 296,000 people cast a ballot in Tuesday's nominating contest, about 7,400 more than the nearly 288,672 cast in 2008 when Clinton barely beat Obama in the state primary. In 2016, when Vermont. Sen. Bernie Sanders beat Clinton by 22 points, 254,780 voted in the party's primary.
The turnout number could indicate that enthusiasm among Democrats is high in 2020. However, Iowa's Democratic caucuses last week had moderate participation despite high turnout expectations, with about 176,000, compared to a record 236,000 in 2008.
The common analysis was that increased turnout would aid Sanders, who targets first-time, younger voters. But, according to Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, turnout was highest in towns won by former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, suggesting that those who voted in the 2016 Republican primary decided to cast a Democratic ballot this time.
New Hampshire allows undeclared voters not aligned with a party to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary contest. Independent voters were free to choose to vote in the more competitive Democratic contest.
In a rally on Monday night, President Trump joked that he heard his supporters would vote for the weakest Democrat in the race.
An NBC News exit poll found that 43% of Democratic primary voters were independents, 1 point higher than in 2008.
The ballots cast slightly exceeded New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner's prediction that 292,000 people would vote in the Democratic contest.
Voters also set a record on the Republican side for the number of people voting to support an incumbent president, with more than 110,000 people voting for Trump, beating the previous record of 49,000 voting in the Democratic primary when Obama was president in 2012.