Thursday's Republican debate, hosted by FOX News, could have just as easily been a stand-up comedy routine headlined by Donald Trump, and featuring a long list of opening acts.
Trump got the majority of the airtime, and many seemed to tune in just to hear what might come out of the gaffe-prone candidate's mouth. At Bend's Riverside Market, where a small crowd gathered to watch the debate while sipping on election-themed beverages, a hush fell over the otherwise chatty crowd whenever Trump started to speak.
"I love him so much!" one woman exclaimed. "I'm voting for him 20 times."
But, like most comedy acts, some viewers thought Trump killed it, while others thought his act fell flat.
Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend) didn't mince words as he called Trump out on Facebook over the weekend, making clear he doesn't see the wealthy businessman as a serious contender for the Presidency.
"I enjoyed the Republican Presidential debate. We have a great field of qualified candidates. But we won't grow a bigger, better GOP—especially in Oregon—if we have an angry, self-absorbed nominee who is better at insulting women and Hispanics than offering serious solutions for America's future," Buehler wrote, referencing Trump's comments earlier this summer suggesting that many Mexican immigrants are drug dealers and rapists. "Donald Trump is uninformed, out of touch, and has no place as a leader of the Republican Party. If he doesn't drop out, I hope Republican voters in early primary states will reject him. For Republicans to win nationally and here in Oregon, we need a Presidential nominee and GOP that is positive, inclusive, and hopeful."
Despite holding onto his lead in polls by NBC News—22 percent of Republican primary voters polled supported him before the debate, 23 percent after—Trump remains polarizing, even among Republicans. That same poll found that while 18 percent of those polled following the debate thought Trump had the best performance (coming in second to former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who got 22 percent of the votes for best performance), 29 percent said he had the worst showing.
Trump supporters frequently cite his willingness to speak his mind as a reason for standing behind him. But those unfiltered comments have also gotten him in trouble. After stating in a phone interview with CNN that debate co-moderator and Fox & Friends anchor Megyn Kelly had "blood coming out of her eyes, coming out of whatever," he was dis-invited from a conservative gathering in Atlanta.
Kelly had called Trump out on his disparaging remarks about women, saying, "You've called women you don't like 'fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.'"
"Only Rosie O'Donnell," Trump interrupted.
Kelly continued, asking, "You once told a contestant on 'Celebrity Apprentice' it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?"
Trump responded by saying he doesn't have time for "political correctness."
But it wasn't all about Trump, even if he seemed to be a major draw for many of those watching the debates. Ohio Gov. John Kasich won praise—and likely some newfound name recognition—with comments about how he would explain his opposition to same-sex marriage if one of his daughters were to come out as a lesbian.
"Because somebody doesn't think the way I do doesn't mean I can't care about them or can't love them," Kasich said, noting that he recently attended the wedding of a gay friend. "If one of my daughters happened to be that, of course I would love them and I would accept them. That's what we're taught when we have strong faith."
Kasich's statement reflects a growing nationwide trend toward acceptance of gays and lesbians, both in his home state and in the Republican party. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, 53 percent of Ohioans support equal access to marriage, and a Pew research poll from 2014 found that 61 percent of Republicans under the age of 30 do.