RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
NPR's Ted Robbins watched the debate, along with eight Republican voters, six of them undecided, at a retirement community in Saddlebrooke, outside Tuscan, Arizona.
TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: I thought I might be imposing on Dick and Peg Alford when I asked them to get some members of the Saddlebrooke Republican Club together at their house. But they thanked me for giving them an excuse to have a little midweek party. So after food and drinks, this group of upscale retirees was ready for their assignment: two TVs, men in one room and women in the other. Michelle Bachmann scored points for saying everyone, including the poor, should pay income taxes.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Unintelligible) everyone should pay something.
ROBBINS: Rick Perry lost points for supporting in-state tuition for Texas college students in the U.S. illegally.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Unintelligible)
ROBBINS: Herman Cain got a big laugh when he was asked if because of their high profiles either Rick Perry or Mitt Romney should be president.
(SOUNDBITE OF DEBATE)
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE AND LAUGHTER)
ROBBINS: But after the debate, I wanted to know what stuck with these voters, what issues resonated with these former business people, ex-military and even government workers who retired to Arizona from all over the country. A number of people, like Peg Alford, who owned a financial services company, agreed with every candidate's view that government should regulate business less in the belief that it will create more jobs.
PEG ALFORD: Interesting all of us thought jobs was the most important. None of us worked, you know. But that doesn't mean that we don't understand how important jobs are.
ROBBINS: Gabriel Berczi likes Rick Perry's plan to drill for more oil in the U.S.
GABRIEL BERCZI: We don't send out for the oil and it will provide employment with a domino effect that once we start drilling, a whole industry will be built that should have been built 25 years ago.
ROBBINS: Marsha Isch is fed up with illegal immigration, a hot topic in Arizona. She thinks Perry is too soft on that issue.
MARSHA ISCH: We used to live in Texas. I don't know that Perry has got it right. I think Romney would be a lot tougher. I don't know about Cain either.
ROBBINS: That's despite Herman Cain's tough border talk, which included a remark about building an electrified fence along the Southern border. It isn't clear whether Cain is serious about that. This group had no consensus debate winner. Nicole Stites says the most honest candidate doesn't stand a chance.
NICOLE STITES: The only candidate that didn't have anything to lose and was really speaking the truth was probably Ron Paul. The other ones were probably telling us what we want to hear and I'm not sure they will come through with anything.
ROBBINS: Dick Alford says the most conservative candidate should get the nomination, period.
DICK ALFORD: I think we look for the person that is going to be best, and if they're the best, they're going to win.
JEANNETTE BERCZI: It's a good statement but unfortunately when you come to the bottom line, you need to vote for who is going to be able to take the presidency.
ROBBINS: That was Jeannette Berczi. She likes Newt Gingrich's intellect but she hasn't settled on anyone. Nicole and Mike Stites seem to have made up their minds.
STITES: Romney is definitely the one I would vote for right now if I had to go vote.
MIKE STITES: I think that Romney stands above the crowd.
ROBBINS: For now though, Peg Alford is happy with the whole field.
ALFORD: Any one of them, in my opinion, would be a better candidate than the person we have right today in the White House.
ROBBINS: This group has four more months to decide before Arizona holds its primary and plenty more debates to watch. That's plenty more chances to get together for a neighborhood party. Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.