Reaction from GOP watch parties across Tampa Bay

With a strong desire for a "powerful brand," a "straight-talker" and a more-conservative executive branch, dozens of Republicans gathered at restaurants and sports bars across Tampa Bay to usher in presidential debate season by watching the first one in small groups.

"I like the honesty of Donald Trump," said Sandra Millard.

"The Republican Party has abandoned us," said another voter. "If you look at (House Speaker John) Boehner and (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell, they're in Obama's pocket."

Who could offer a more clear-cut "brand" than Donald Trump, the candidate who made billions selling his own?

"He has forced issues to the forefront, when we can talk about what is really going on, and talk honestly, without having to parse words."

But those words, particularly what he said in June, that "Mexico is sending murderers and rapists to America," have offended many, including other Republicans.

At the Hillsborough County GOP's watch party at Cuban restaurant La Teresita in Tampa, the party's poll leader was a turn-off.

"I did not like what Trump said, making it personal against Megyn Kelly, who is just being a reporter," said voter Sonia Slack.

Yet Florida's native son, Marco Rubio, and almost-native son, Jeb Bush, couldn't turn that into a win for them.

"No they did not impress me," explained Slack. "I don't even remember too much of what they said."

Others, like Gabriel Phillips, said they're still deciding.

"In a Democratic process, we have all these ideas come to the table. We listen. We look at the history of what all these people have done."

But at a Democratic watch party, they made clear: they like their chances against Trump.

"I believe we can (beat him), quite easily, quite easily."