Seven Republican presidential hopefuls lined up on a New Hampshire stage Monday night and fielded questions on topics ranging from health care to military action.
Republicans in Forsyth County said there were no clear winners or losers, just a chance to learn more about the candidates, one of whom likely will face President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.
And the winner was, well, everyone.
"I thought everybody on stage showed that they could be leader. They all had good ideas," said Brad Wilkins, member of the Forsyth County Republican Party and Tea Party group, Concerned Citizens of Forsyth County.
"I walked out of the debate with a sense that we’re still really early in the process."
Participating in the debate were: U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota; businessman and talk show host Herman Cain; former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas; former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; and former U.S Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
Ethan Underwood, chairman of the Forsyth GOP, said each candidate had strengths and weaknesses.
"Different candidates stood out on different things," he said. "I thought Gov. Romney had a very good command of the economic issues. I thought Rick Santorum did a very good job at answering questions about social issues that are important to Republicans.
"Newt Gingrich did a good job of taking complex issues and paring them down to real life vernacular."
Overall, he said, the debate was a great way to start learning more about the candidates. But it’s still early in the process.
Gayle Troyer, a member of the local party, said she was impressed with what she saw.
"We can’t lose with most of the candidates. I think they all did a pretty good job," she said. "I still need to see who would be the most competition against our president."
Troyer said Paul was not her favorite, though he has a lot of supporters.
"They asked the question at the place where I was watching if we had to vote tomorrow, who would we vote for," she said.
"I guess on the overall experience and knowing as much as can be known about the world, I think Newt Gingrich would certainly have the capability and know-how."
Wilkins said if there were points for best answers, Romney would have won the debate, but he "didn’t feel any one of them had a break-out moment."
"[Romney] probably scored more points in terms of good answers and decent policy," Wilkins said. "He still has a long way to go in terms of explaining his health care program in Massachusetts."
Underwood said he was disappointed with the choice of moderator, noting that CNN’s John King was "a little more combative than he ought to be."
"He seemed like a person who actively disagreed with the Republican Party and our candidates," Underwood said. "He was asking very direct questions that I think he’d probably not ask the same of a Democratic candidate.
"But that’s realistic. I think that’s the kind of tough questioning candidates will get from people that don’t necessarily agree with you."
Troyer said Bachmann came out strong, as did Pawlenty.
She said Gingrich did his homework for the debate and she liked what she saw from Cain, but "I’m just not sure he has quite enough experience."
"But hey, neither did Barack Obama," she said.
Wilkins said Cain is an intelligent leader, but he’s hoping to hear more from the candidate as the campaign season continues. He’d also like the same from Pawlenty.
Overall, Wilkins said the debate "was very toned down in terms of surprise factor," but there were no gaffs or "oops moments."
"Any one of them could be the next president," he said.