Iowa voters grade GOP candidates' debate performance, dump Trump

Pella, Iowa (CNN)The first debate of the 2016 cycle is finally over. But how did it play?

As Republicans gathered to duke it out in Cleveland, CNN assembled a focus group of undecided Iowa Republican voters in Pella, a small town east of Des Moines, moderated by CNN's Joe Johns.
In recent caucuses, Pella has voted similarly to Iowa as a whole. Rick Santorum came in first in 2012, and Mike Huckabee won in 2008. Pella has historically voted overwhelmingly Republican in the general election.
In the crucial first-in-the-nation caucus state that can make or break a candidate's chance for the nomination, Iowans pride themselves on winnowing the field. And in a particularly crowded field of 2016 candidates, they take the responsibility very seriously.
    Thursday evening's biggest loser in Pella was frontrunner Donald Trump.
    Ahead of the debate, all participants said they were open-minded toward the businessman. That quickly changed after the first question. Participants overwhelmingly agreed that Trump's willingness to run as a third party candidate was a turnoff.
    "The more he talks, the less I like him," said Karen Converse, 53, a realtor from nearby Oskaloosa. "He's making the other candidates look better, he's making them look credible."
    College student Lindsey Mueller, 21, was unsettled by Trump's record on women.
    "If you call somebody a pig and tell them they'll look better on their knees, that's not political correctness ... ," Mueller said.
    "My concern is ethics, said Steve Heerema, 45, a minister. "I don't like Donald Trump because I don't think he has ethics."
    For engineer Jacob Limke, 26, Trump showed that he would not work well with others.
    "He's always been the boss ... If he didn't get his way, what would he do? It makes me nervous to think about that, how many executive orders he would sign," Limke said. "His business record makes me uneasy and uncertain about what is he going to do."
    By the end of the debate, none said they would give him a second look, describing the businessman as a "bully," "not ready for the big leagues," "a talking parrot," and "abrasive."
    Who had the best breakout performance? In Pella, Ben Carson stood out, described as "ready for prime time," "brilliant," and "someone you can really trust."
    "Everything about him is impressive," said Lynne Henry. "I just get a real sense of peace and calm with this man that I have not felt from a candidate since Ronald Reagan."
    By the end of the night, Henry, who went into the debate interested in both Trump and Carson, was ready to make a decision: "I have been holding onto a Ben Carson bumper sticker that got sent to me, I've been waiting to put it on my car. It's going on tonight."
    Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich both impressed participants, as well. Rubio's middle class upbringing resonated with the group, and despite concerns about his lack of governing experience, participants found the senator well-informed and trustworthy.
    Kasich's response to a question on same-sex marriage resonated positively with the group.
    Though all agreed that Jeb Bush gave no wrong answers, he failed to ignite enthusiasm in the Pella group.
    "I have no problems with Jeb Bush, I'm just not that excited about him right now," Heerema said.
    "It's not like I disagree with him, it's not like I don't agree with a lot of what he says," said Julie Mueller, a small-business owner and wife of the Pella mayor. "He has a very good record in Florida, but I'm suffering from a little bit of Bush fatigue and he's just not that interesting ... I think it's the last name, and maybe that's too bad."
    In an informal show of hands, seven participants said they would vote for Ben Carson if the caucus were held today, three for Marco Rubio and one for Kasich.
    Iowa's caucus night is scheduled for February.