ATLANTA — Conservative activists at the annual Red State Gathering were entertained by the sparring GOP presidential primary candidates Thursday night at a debate watch party, but many walked away after the debate with their minds unchanged or undecided.
Attendees hollered and cheered for their favorite candidates, and when the candidates tossed verbal zingers at one another, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.
“My top three are Walker, Rubio, Rand Paul. I didn’t see anything in the debate that changed my opinion on those three. I love Donald Trump’s style, but substantively, he’s not my guy,” Gabe Hartwig told The Daily Caller.
Matthew Reid, a Republican voter from Texas, told TheDC that not a whole lot changed for him either, but that he did like Ohio Gov. John Kasich a bit more.
“He really impressed me a little bit,” Reid said. “But again, I would say that Christie, Bush, and Rubio are my top three. I’ve always kind of liked Chris Christie with his style as well as his substance. Jeb Bush is pretty pragmatic on immigration. I like Rubio. I like what he represents.”
Jack Staver of Woodstock, Ga., is still undecided after the debate Thursday evening. (VIDEO: Huckabee: The Military Is Not A Social Experiment)
“It’s too early. They’re all going to show you their behinds, which they’re starting to do and they’re going to self-disintegrate, which is going to be great, because I don’t want somebody who goes up there and say what I want you to hear just so I can get elected. It’s a job interview.”
He added, “I like Trump’s attitude. If the other guys had Trump’s attitude and were truthful and say what they really feel instead of being politically correct everything would be different.”
Cruz supporter David Van Sant, a resident of Atlanta, thought that although Trump did well, the New York businessman is “polarizing.” (VIDEO: Trump Delivers Instant Chaos At Start Of Primetime Debate)
“I think they both did a good job, but I think that Cruz is more of a presidential candidate than Trump will be,” he said.
Seth Weathers of Atlanta, however, argued that he was impressed with Trump.
“I think he did things that people were not expecting to happen at that debate. We heard lots of things going into the debate like, ‘Trump is a clown. He is going to make it a joke. How is he going to stand up for himself? He’s going to be attacking people.’ He actually had some solid answers. His Middle East responses were pretty right on.”
Both Pam Alion and Renee Cobb, both of Atlanta, agree that Trump “raised the bar” and issues that need to be discussed.
“I liked Rubio a lot. I like his humble roots. Cruz has a lot of good ideas. Christie has some great ideas. I’m a little wavering on [Christie],” Cobb said.
Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to address Red State Gathering attendees from Friday to Saturday.