Nobody delivered a knockout blow in tonight's debate for the GOP nomination and the opportunity face Kay Hagan in November. That's hard to do when all of the candidates say that they fundamentally agree on most issues.
None of the candidates made any obvious mistakes. None of the candidates did anything to lose voters who had decided on their pick for May 6th.
Regardless, here are a few quick observations:
If anybody "won" the debate it was probably Thom Tillis. He's the politician. He's the smoothest. He's the most polished. My guess is the people who are just tuning into this race (the truly undecided voters because they have not been paying attention), liked what they heard. Does that type of performance get him up to 40% and enough votes to avoid a runoff? That's still the big question.
If you are looking for a fighter and not a politician (and I don't use politician here as a dirty word), then Brannon is your guy. He went after Tillis more directly than any other candidate. He pushed back when the Speaker twisted his words on a question regarding the 2nd amendment. He definitely gave the impression that you will get someone willing to go to the mat and go repeatedly. However, one has to wonder how well his repeated and constant references to the Constitution go over on TV. This works great at small events with hardcore conservative activist types, but it might not translate well to mass media.
If you want the gentleman social conservative, Mark Harris fits the bill. However, politics is a contact sport and tonight the good pastor didn't even suit up. He came off flat. He didn't have the fire you would expect from someone who led the charge on something like Amendment 1. Again, he gave no wrong answers, but the answers he gave were not going to sway any of the undecided into saying "he's my guy.".
If you are looking for a folksy, Sarah Palin-esque candidate Heather Grant meets the criteria. She had the fire Harris was lacking, and she gave the right answers just like the rest of them. She has a good back story and would make a fine Republican lawmaker. Is she ready for the US Senate versus the State Legislature? The General Assembly probably would have been a better choice for a first time run. She'd win easily in the right district.
Nothing changed this evening. This one still seems headed for a runoff - likely one between Brannon and Tillis. They'll all meet two more times in quick succession for two more debates, then it will be time to watch the polls.