CONCORD, N.H. — Independent voters dominate New Hampshire’s electorate, and many of them seemed intent on trying to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming the Democratic presidential nominee.
The backlash against Mrs. Clinton was palpable at polling stations. Independent voters were allowed to pick their party primary and said they chose the Democratic race to send a message.
“I just can’t live with Hillary in office. I can live with Bernie; I can’t live with Hillary,” said Steve Matloff, a 52-year-old from Londonderry. “I can live with almost all of them, to be honest with you.”
It’s a devastating evaluation from a state that has been kind to Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, delivering a victory to her in the 2008 primary and rescuing his 1992 campaign with a surprise second-place showing.
Early exit polling suggested more “undeclared” voters — those who don’t register as Democrats or Republicans, or any other party — voted in the Democratic primary. That could suggest a major show of enthusiasm for Democrats over Republicans, but it also could be evidence of widespread anti-Clinton sentiment.
One undeclared voter, who gave his name only as Paul, said he picked up a Democratic ballot to vote for Sen. Bernard Sanders, Mrs. Clinton’s opponent — but it wasn’t an endorsement of the maverick senator.
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“I don’t want Hillary,” the military veteran said. “It is that simple.”
He said he didn’t vote in the Republican primary because he was afraid that would mean “Hillary might win and go on to get the nomination.”
Mrs. Clinton narrowly won Iowa’s caucuses last week, but Mr. Sanders maintained a lead in New Hampshire for weeks, forcing Mrs. Clinton on the defensive.
Independent voters who took a Democratic ballot broke heavily for Mr. Sanders, who attracted more than 70 percent of the bloc, according to exit polling.
On the Republican side, the independents broke heavily for Donald Trump, the iconoclastic candidate who vowed to bring them into the Republican fold. He was winning about a third of the undeclared vote.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich was also doing well among independents — indeed, his support among undeclared voters was about 50 percent ahead of his support among Republicans, powering him to a solid showing.
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Walt Noyalis, 72, in Bedford, said Mr. Kasich was the “lesser of the evils.”
“John Kasich, though I don’t really have a home in either party, I thought that his voice had more humanity in it than most of the others,” he said. “I thought if somebody needed a push on the Republican side, that if it came to a general election that I could actually consider voting for, it would be somebody like John Kasich.”
Miguel Peschiera, 30, was more enthusiastic about the governor. Also an independent voter, he stood outside a Bedford polling place holding a Kasich sign, which he said was the first time he had done anything like that.
“I would put him as, how I feel, what [John F. Kennedy] could have been to other generations. To really make this country unified again,” he said. “I have never felt this way about any presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat. He is a real breath of fresh air.”
Mr. Peschiera said he has voted for Democrats and Republicans in the past and sees Mr. Kasich as a unifier.
“You will hear it from people in New Hampshire specifically saying, ‘Kasich is appealing, and I am a Democrat,’ ” he said. “He definitely has a message that isn’t so abrasive.”
Voters weren’t the only show at the polling places.
Vermin Supreme, a bearded satirist who has become a minor political celebrity, greeted people outside a polling place at Londonderry High School, reminding them that he was on the ballot as a Democrat.
Wearing his signature black rubber boot atop his head and touting a big red toothbrush, Mr. Supreme posed for selfies with voters entering the polling station and thanked those exiting, acting as if they had all supported him.
Meanwhile, one of his top surrogates, a guy who went by “The Most Holy Rev. Red Moses” and described himself as a spiritual adviser, taunted sign-toting Donald Trump supporters nearby with the idea that he would be willing to shift his support to their candidate in exchange for a free pink pony.
“Except for Vermin Supreme, who has offered me a beautiful pink pony for his vote? Yeah! Vermin Supreme,” he said, sporting a blue bathrobe and a papier mache fish atop his head.
“I represent the ancient order of the fish that started the whole passage from the deep seas and goes onto now,” he later said. “I expect dead fish to enter the Oval Office sadly when we could have a real live fish, and so I am offering a fish to every voter until we win, to accompany the pony.”
Mr. Red Moses also had a bullhorn and at one point announced a pro-Muslim Trump dance party.