KEENE/NASHUA (United States) • Democratic White House candidates Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg sought to build on their strength as front-runners - as an energised Senator Amy Klobuchar gained ground - in an up-for-grabs race in the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary.
Mr Buttigieg and Mr Sanders, who emerged first and second in delegates in the opening nominating contest in Iowa last week, face eight rivals in the latest vote. Polls were due to close at 8pm on Tuesday (9am today, Singapore time).
But Ms Klobuchar pulled into third place in two opinion polls.
The man they are seeking to take on in the November election, Republican President Donald Trump, held his own raucous rally on Monday night in Manchester, New Hampshire, in a move to distract from the Democratic nominating contest.
The large number of Democratic candidates and undecided voters makes the outcome of the New Hampshire contest unpredictable, said Mr Ray Buckley, chairman of the state Democratic Party.
"This is anyone's race to win," he told reporters yesterday.
One undecided voter, 65-year-old Stacy Sand, showed up to see US Senator Elizabeth Warren but remained torn between her and Ms Klobuchar. "I might just be deciding as I head into the polls," Ms Sand said.
Mr Sanders, 78, a progressive who represents neighbouring Vermont in the US Senate, has long led in opinion polls in New Hampshire. But Mr Buttigieg, the 38-year-old moderate and former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has picked up ground since Iowa.
In Plymouth, Mr Buttigieg tried to reach out to undecided voters, referring to "future former Republicans" who he said were more than welcome to back his campaign.
"It's decision time," said Mr Buttigieg. He took a shot at Mr Sanders, saying that the self-described democratic socialist would have a hard time pulling in moderate voters.
"Knowing how much depends on bringing Americans together, we cannot risk alienating Americans at this critical moment," he said. "And that's where I part ways with my friend Senator Sanders."
In a separate event, Mr Sanders aimed his attacks at Mr Trump. "I know not everybody agrees with everything I say, but I think what we can agree about is that we cannot continue having a president who is a pathological liar," Mr Sanders told a crowd at a sports club in Manchester.
A pair of polls released late on Sunday and early on Monday showed Ms Klobuchar pulling into third place behind Mr Sanders and Mr Buttigieg following the party's debate in New Hampshire last Friday.
"We feel the surge, for me it's been a long time coming," said Ms Klobuchar, a moderate from Minnesota, noting she had visited New Hampshire 23 times since she entered the presidential race a year ago.
She told a crowd of more than 200 at Keene State College that she was the candidate who could appeal to independents and Republicans disenchanted with Mr Trump's divisive policies and rhetoric.
A Boston Globe poll conducted with Suffolk University and WBZ-TV showed Mr Sanders with 27 per cent, Mr Buttigieg with 19 per cent and Ms Klobuchar with 14 per cent among 500 likely voters polled over the weekend in New Hampshire. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
A separate poll by WHDH/Emerson College also showed Ms Klobuchar pulling into third.