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Kasich, Sanders win vote in New Hampshire's Dixville Notch

Story highlights

  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders got off to an early lead in the New Hampshire primary early Tuesday morning
  • Sanders shut out Hillary Clinton, 4-0, while Kasich bested Donald Trump, 3-2

Dixville Notch, New Hampshire (CNN)Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders got an early boost Tuesday as they won the vote in Dixville Notch, the New Hampshire hamlet that is home to the first vote in the first-in-the-nation primary.

Sanders shut out Hillary Clinton, 4-0, while Kasich bested Donald Trump, 3-2.
    Those were the only nine votes cast.
    Nestled into the White Mountains in New Hampshire's northernmost reaches, Dixville Notch and two nearby towns, Hart's Location and Millsfield, don't count for many votes, but they do offer one positive for the winners: For nearly a full day, they're ahead in the only results that have been tallied in the Granite State's crucial primary.
    In Millsfield, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the GOP vote with nine votes compared to Trump's three, while several other GOP candidates received one vote apiece. Clinton received two votes to beat Sanders, who received one.

    A decades-long tradition

    At Dixville Notch, it's a tradition that dates to the 1960s: A few voters and dozens of political journalists pile into The Balsams, where the votes are cast at midnight and counted immediately.
    The town doesn't have a record of predicting much about New Hampshire's primary. In 2008, then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won the Democratic primary by a 7-2 vote, even though Clinton won the state.
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    In 2000, George W. Bush beat John McCain, even though the Arizona senator won the state. And in 2012, Jon Huntsman won just as many votes -- two -- as Mitt Romney, the party's eventual nominee.
    A fictionalized version of Dixville Notch and its two early-voting neighbors was featured in an episode of Aaron Sorkin's "West Wing" -- this one dubbed "Hartsfield's Landing."
    Dixville Notch's nine-vote contingency is largely made of the staff redeveloping The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, which has been closed since its sale in 2011.
    Still open, though, is the resort's wood-paneled Ballot Room, which is decorated with political articles and cartoons dating back to its first-ever midnight vote: the 1960 general election, when Dixville Notch went 9-0 for Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy.
    A picture of the town's voters from the era is among the art featured in the room.
    Tom Tillotson, the 71-year-old town moderator who has run the midnight voting for decades (and voted for Kasich this time), said "of course it's fun" to keep the tradition alive.
    "This is an example of American democracy where 100% of the voters come out and vote," he said. "It's also a part of a primary process where it's sort of an endangered species where the candidates actually go out and talk to the voters, and anything we can do to keep that alive helps our political process."

    Voters explain their ballots

    "Remember the old Wendy's commercial: 'Where's the beef?'" said the Kasich-supporting Les Otten, 66, the developer who is reworking The Balsams.
    "At the end of the day, there was more meat and there was less noise," he said of Kasich's campaign. "To me, it came down between he and Jeb Bush. I think they were both great, but Kasich managed to stay out of the fray."
    Jeff Stevens, a 60-year-old construction manager on The Balsams, wouldn't say who he supported, but he did vote for a Republican, and his reasoning echoed Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan.
    "What matters to me in a candidate is someone who loves America and who wants to keep making it better for all Americans," Stevens said. "I'm for any candidate who loves America, wants to make it better, and wants to make it better for all Americans."
    On the Democratic side, it was unanimous: Every blue ballot went for Sanders.
    Clayton Smith, a 28-year-old military veteran who's now a sales and development employee at The Balsams, followed the Democratic race's broader trend and -- like most young voters -- went with Sanders.
    "Even though I don't agree with every one of his policies, he has his convictions, and I admire that, I respect that, and I think that's what swayed it for me is he has principle," Smith said.