PLYMOUTH, N.H. – John Kerry (search) is the winner of the New Hampshire primary, based on 14 percent of precincts reporting, Fox News projects.
The Massachusetts senator has 38 percent of the vote, Howard Dean (search) has 24 percent, and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (search) and retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark (search) are tied for third at 13 percent.
• New Hampshire Exit Poll (pdf)
The Democratic presidential contenders continued to pound the pavement until the polls closed at 8 p.m. EST, hoping all of their hard-core campaigning and get-out-the-vote efforts would pay off when the votes in New Hampshire were tallied.
Granite Staters braved single-digit temperatures to cast their ballots in the nation's first presidential primary.
In Manchester, Clerk Leo Bernier called the turnout excellent.
"The independents are coming out to vote. New registrations are high," he said.
State officials anticipate about a record 184,000 voters to turn out. That number of Democratic votes would eclipse the record of 170,000 set in 1992, when Paul Tsongas beat former President Bill Clinton. A winning percentage is expected to be about 30 percent.
"I don't think there's anything traditional about this election," David Axelrod, a media consultant for John Edwards, told Fox News. "I think it's very, very clear this race is going to be wide open coming out of there and there are going to be several people who will be strong contenders."
The winner of the primary will receive the state's 22 national convention delegates, as well as incalculable political momentum in the contest to pick a Democratic challenger for President Bush — no candidate has ever become president without coming in first or second in the Granite State.
A large number of New Hampshire residents are Massachusetts transplants; that's likely to help Democratic front-runner John Kerry, a Bay State senator, who hopes to dominate all voter groups much the way he did in Iowa.
Hoping for a big win in New Hampshire, Kerry — who received an endorsement from Sen. Jon S. Corzine, D-N.J., on Tuesday — worked voting places in a last-minute push to victory he hopes will all but eliminate his nearest rival, Howard Dean.
Kerry frantically worked some 11th-hour votes, doing live TV interviews for Boston and New Hampshire stations at 6 p.m. EST. He then returned to a polling place to try to persuade voters there.
"I hope I can earn your vote today," Kerry told one voter. "If you can find some of your friends, drag your friends with you," he told another.
"You all must be freezing," Dean told a group of supporters as he handed out coffee. "Thank you very much for doing this."
Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark (search) started shaking hands at 7 a.m. and cheerily greeted voters at the polls amid the frigid temperatures. He also handed out hot chocolate to his volunteers.
Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (search) and his wife, Haddasah, spent the afternoon talking to voters at the polls.
Clark won the initial votes cast shortly after midnight Tuesday in the tiny northern hamlets of Dixville Notch and Hart's Location. Clark received 14 votes, Kerry eight, Edwards and Dean four each and Lieberman one.
While Clark's win could hardly be taken as a sign of things to come, the former NATO commander remained upbeat.
"I already consider this a success, basically," he said Tuesday. "We've done very well here. This is my first election and we've met a lot of people, we've made a lot of friends, and I'm very happy with what we've done here in New Hampshire."
And the Polls Say …
A Fox News New Hampshire Primary Tracking Poll released Monday evening showed Kerry was still leading the pack with 36 percent of the vote. Other polls showed Kerry with similar leads.
"Polls have never meant anything to me," Kerry told Fox News on Tuesday. "I respect the voters. I believe you have to work hard for every vote."
The poll of 461 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters, taken from Jan. 23-25, showed that Kerry's lead was a full 11 percentage points ahead of Dean, who got 25 percent of the vote.
Edwards got 13 percent, Clark got 11 percent and Lieberman got 7 percent. Six percent of likely voters remained undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 4.6 percent.
"I feel very good, very positive about how things are going," Edwards said Tuesday. "We've had huge crowds, lots of excitement, we're feeling very good right now."
While many like Edwards' boyish charm, they're not sure he has the experience necessary to be president but also say he would make a great No. 2 in the White House with Kerry at the helm. But the senator isn't interested in that job.
"You should be asking him that question, whether he'd consider a vice presidential seat with me," Edwards said Tuesday. "No, the answer's no."
Lieberman said Tuesday he's locked in a tight battle for third place in New Hampshire but doesn't need that strong a finish to declare victory.
"I don't need to (place in the top three)," Lieberman told The Associated Press. "Obviously we're in the running for third. We feel we're in the hunt for third now."
Lieberman's staff told Fox News that he's staying in the race and dispatching staff to Delaware and other states that vote next Tuesday night and throughout the week.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich (search), who has been polling at 1 percent in most polls, said Tuesday his campaign has the money to carry beyond New Hampshire and insisted he won't drop out of the race.
"We're going to do our best here and go on to the next state and the next state," Kucinich said while in Maine. "I haven't discounted the possibility of a surge in some of these other states."
The Next Big Get
Kerry was already looking ahead to the seven states that vote in the Feb. 3 primaries and planned TV advertising in all of them, particularly Missouri, the state with the most nominating delegates at stake that day.
Kerry's campaign released a statement Tuesday, saying the senator "has hit the ground running across America in his campaign to change the nation and send George Bush back to Texas" for the Feb. 3 states.
"In the days leading up to the Feb. 3rd primaries, Kerry will visit each state and campaign virtually nonstop," the statement said, adding that the campaign will air new ads in each of the seven states starting on Wednesday.
If Dean can pull off a respectable second-place showing, aides insist they will fight on to all seven states even if it means giving up paychecks to put the cash toward TV ads.
The Dean camp believes Kerry will wilt under the harsh scrutiny that front-runners face, and the doctor-turned-politician will have another chance to claw his way back into contention. Dean has been focusing on Arizona and New Mexico.
But Dean faces an uphill battle in South Carolina, for one, against Edwards, who is hoping for a strong third-place showing in New Hampshire to propel him toward the Feb. 3 primaries.
"I think we've seen a lot of interest and energy behind his candidacy in New Hampshire, and I think we're going down South with more momentum than anybody thought we could," Axelrod said.
"I think people appreciated that instead of tearing people up, he was talking about trying to lift this country up," he added, referring to Edwards' tendency to not give in to political sniping, as other candidates have done.
Fox News' Carl Cameron, Major Garrett and The Associated Press contributed to this report.