Setting the stage for the first-in-the-nation primary

WEST LEBANON, N.H. (WCAX) Voters have officially started hitting the polls for the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire.

In the Democratic primary, the latest CBS News poll shows Sen. Bernie Sanders has the top spot at 29 percent followed closely by Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 25 percent. Sen. Elizabeth Warren leads the middle of the pack at 17 percent. Former Vice President Joe Biden is at 12 percent and Sen. Amy Klobuchar is at 10 percent

Our Christina Guessferd spoke with some voters outside the Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon Tuesday morning. Many said they know their vote holds weight and could help shape the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

"I voted for Pete Buttegieg," said Sharon Reed of West Lebanon. "I really hope that this helps clarify a true lead for the party so we can have a good shot going into the November election."

Caron & Eric Bronstein say they both voted for Amy Klobuchar. "The only thing that is going to change what's happening in Washington is if there are other people in the country that are brave enough to say, 'We don't like what's happening.' And that's only going to happen with a candidate who can reach across and say, 'You know what, we need to work together on this,'" Eric Bronstein said. "I don't believe in having a race with only one or two candidates. I think we need a lot of choices."

"I am really excited to vote for Warren," said Nicole Loeven of West Lebanon.

"I voted for Tulsi," said Steven Johnson of West Lebanon.

Many Democrats, like Jennifer Carter, say they are devoted to the candidate they think can win the undecided vote beyond New Hampshire.

"I think it needs to be someone moderate like Pete Buttigieg or somebody like that, because otherwise I don't think you're going to get a Republican voter to cross party lines. They're not going to cross for Bernie. They're not going to cross for Warren" Carter said. "I'm not a huge Trump supporter. I'm not a Democrat either. I'm an independent, but I really don't like him and I really don't want him to have another term."

"I think Pete has the ability to unify, which I feel we are lacking in a lot of candidates," Reed said.

"I think we really need to get Trump out of the White House and I think we just need to reshape our country in a way that works well for everyone," Loeven said.

No one spoke with said they had voted for Joe Biden

IMPACT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE DECISION

The New Hampshire primary takes the temperature of the nation and serves as a major testing ground for candidates.

At the end of the day, when it comes to counting delegates to decide who will be the Democratic nominee, the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary really don't matter that much. New Hampshire only offers up four electoral votes.

But the first-in-the-nation primary holds symbolic importance and provides massive media attention which can give the winner a boost in momentum heading into Nevada, South Carolina and Super Tuesday contests.

New Hampshire voters on both sides of the aisle agree and history shows that the winner in New Hampshire could very well be the nominee who steps into the ring with President Donald Trump in November.

"We have so many months to go, but ultimately, I think the New Hampshire primary sets the tone. Iowa did not set a great tone, but New Hampshire sets the tone," said Jennifer Carter of West Lebanon.

"Tradition really is that the way New Hampshire votes is pretty close to what the end results are through the years of the primaries, so it's always interesting to see what the Granite State decides on things and growing up in the Granite State, it's always been the sort of trademark or the marker to see where things are going in the future," said Mike Deyett of Lebanon.

But political analysts say if a candidate doesn't perform well in New Hampshire, that doesn't mean they're out of the fight. We went back through the years to see just what winning the New Hampshire primary meant for securing the party's nomination. Over the past several decades, it seems a Republican who won New Hampshire was more likely to win the nomination.

Since 1952, only nine of the 17 Democratic candidates who won the New Hampshire primary have gone on to secure the Democratic nomination. But 14 of the 17 Republican candidates who won the primary have gone on to secure the Republican nomination.

From 1952 to 1988, the person elected president had won his party's primary in New Hampshire. But the next three presidents -- Clinton, Bush and Obama -- all finished second in New Hampshire. President Trump ended that trend, winning New Hampshire in 2016.

This year, voter turnout is a concern for many Democrats as it was low in Iowa. Campaigns were prepared for as many as 300,000 people, but only 176,000 showed up, that's roughly the same number as in 2016.

Now, political analysts say when the Democrats need to rally their troops the most, they're falling short. And they say if turnout doesn't turn around, this may prove the Democratic electorate isn't as invested in this race as the party previously presumed.

That's left many Democrats concerned the lack of engagement will spill into the presidential election when the nominee will go up against President Donald Trump.

"The Democratic Party was likely expecting higher turnout in terms of thinking of their base as being very impassioned and motivated to get involved in this election. Maybe Democrats are holding their attention until November, and they'll turn out in favor of anyone who gets the Democratic nomination," said Lisa Holmes, a political science professor at the University of Vermont.

Holmes says if there's low voter turnout after Tuesday's primary, the Democratic Party will likely reassess their approach, ramping up grassroots activism to get people to the polls.

WHAT VOTERS NEED TO KNOW BEFORE HITTING THE POLLS

First you'll want to look up your local polling location. You can find that information at the New Hampshire secretary of state's website.

Choose a Democratic ballot or a Republican ballot. If you’re a registered Republican, you can only vote in the Republican primary. If you’re a registered Democrat, you can only vote in the Democratic primary. If you’re an undeclared voter, you can vote in either race.