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New Hampshire residents find what they were looking for in Trump-Clinton debate

Organizers welcome supporters at a Clinton watch party at the Strange Brew Tavern in Manchester.
Ivan Levingston | CNBC

MANCHESTER, N.H. — When the dust settled after Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump finished their verbal brawl, some voters in this battleground state appeared largely unswayed by either candidate.

Millions of Americans tuned in Monday evening for the first presidential debate of the election cycle, which pitted the seasoned debater Clinton against the less tested and unpredictable Trump. The two candidates faced off as polls show an increasingly close race with just six weeks remaining until Election Day.

While this gritty city of 110,000 residents, the most populous in the state, was mostly quiet, some gathered in bars to watch the debate. For the most part, onlookers seemed to find the results they were looking for.

At the Strange Brew Tavern, roughly two dozen Clinton supporters gathered to watch. While the atmosphere was largely quiet, cheers broke out from time to time when Clinton spoke. Catherine O'Leary, a Manchester resident and Clinton supporter, said she was unimpressed with Trump's responses.

"He's just repeating himself over and over again," O'Leary said. "He doesn't answer the questions." She said the debate appeared to be a victory for Clinton.

They're both pretty tame, I expected both of them to come out a little more aggressively.
Ian Reed
college student

Moderated by NBC News anchor Lester Holt, the debate got off to a relatively quiet start compared to some of the more animated debates of the primary season.

For some locals, the low-key start was a surprise.

"They're both pretty tame, I expected both of them to come out a little more aggressively," said Ian Reed, a 23-year old college student. Reed said he was not excited about either candidate and remained undecided. He said he thought the final result was "relatively even," though with Clinton delivering a more consistent performance.

Despite the fact that the bar was playing host to a Clinton watch part complete with posters and organizers, a handful of patrons said they were not supporters of the former secretary of state.

During the debate, Chris Bennett, an independent from Grantham, said he was disappointed about what he had heard from the nominees and that "both candidates are tripping over their feet."

"I don't think there was a clear winner or loser," Bennett said afterward. "I think people are going to see exactly what they want."

Ryan Berube, a 29-year-old visiting from Massachusetts, said that while he typically leans conservative, he was "disappointed with the integrity with what both parties have to offer." Nevertheless, as of now he thinks he will ultimately vote for Trump more for what the Republican Party stands for than for the candidate himself. He said he thought Trump "conducted himself in a pretty good manner" but that overall the debate was "a draw."

New Hampshire is an important swing state despite its small size, and Granite State voters are known for their independent streak. While Clinton has consistently polled ahead of Trump here, including posting a 9 percent lead in a Monmouth University poll of likely voters released Wednesday, both campaigns are battling for the state's four electoral votes. Elections prediction website FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton a slightly more than 60 percent chance of winning the state.

The Clinton campaign has more than 100 paid organizers and staffers in the state, and 25 offices across the state working to get out the vote for Clinton as well as a number of other local politicians, according to a Clinton campaign spokesperson. Clinton herself will be visiting the state Wednesday to campaign with former rival Sen. Bernie Sanders of neighboring Vermont.

While Trump is down in the polls in New Hampshire, his campaign is also putting effort and time into a state that Trump won handily during the state's GOP primary last February. The Trump campaign, in collaboration with the Republican National Committee, has 11 field offices across the state and almost 50 paid staffers, according to information provided by the campaign. Trump's running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence visited New Hampshire on Monday afternoon ahead of the debate.

Down the ballot, New Hampshire could also be a decisive state in the battle for control of the Senate. Incumbent GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte is locked in a fierce re-election battle against Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, with Ayotte posting a narrow 2-point lead in the Monmouth poll, within the poll's 4.9 percent margin of error.