Republican State Committee member Eamon Fennessy of Beverly does not hesitate when asked whom he favors among his party's contenders for the presidency next year. He's in Mitt Romney's corner.
"I think he's the best guy for the United States today," he said of the former Massachusetts governor. "He's a guy who gets things done, who is decent, who has a set of values that agrees with mine."
But Dorothy "Dot" Early, a Republican State Committee member from Haverhill, is supporting former New York mayor Rudolph W. Guiliani.
"I loved his leadership ability with 9/11," she said, "and I've just followed his politics."
With the presidential primary and caucus season fast approaching, area Republicans are beginning to zero in on whom to support among their party's contenders for the White House.
Despite his Massachusetts credentials, Romney is only one of a number of presidential hopefuls drawing support and interest among GOP loyalists interviewed last week.
Early said she is struck by the lack of unanimity over a candidate.
"In 40 years, I've never seen anything like it," she said. "But it's great, because we need the diversity."
As with their Democratic counterparts, active Republicans are looking forward to assisting their candidates in the critical first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary.
Like Fennessy, Essex Sheriff Frank G. Cousins Jr. of Newburyport is supporting the Bay State's former governor.
"He asked me last fall and I told him I'd be supportive of him," Cousins said of Romney. "I think he's got the leadership, he wants to do the job, he's got the energy. He's a very, very strong, viable candidate."
But Giuliani is the candidate with the support of Revere Republican City Committee chairman George M. Anzuoni.
"His leadership qualities," Anzuoni said of what has sold him on Giuliani, "especially the way he handled New York City after 9/11." He said he also likes that Giuliani "doesn't vacillate on his positions. He seems to have been consistent throughout the years on the stances he takes."
State Senate Republican leader Richard R. Tisei of Wakefield, one of three cochairs of the Giuliani campaign in Massachusetts - another is state Senator Bruce E. Tarr of Gloucester - said Giuliani's "spectacular record of accomplishment" as mayor of New York prompted his support.
"He was able to take a city that was really in desperate straits and help it recover, and turn it into one of the most vibrant metropolitan areas of the United States," he said.
Former Rockport selectman Ted Tarr is foursquare behind Senator John McCain.
"I think he's got the experience. I think he's got the judgment, and he is straightforward," said Tarr. Despite the perception that McCain's prospects have faded, Tarr believes the Arizona senator can win the nomination.
Driving around with McCain signs on his Humvee truck, "I'm getting more and more thumbs up and honks" Tarr said. "I think his popularity seems to be increasing."
Republican State Committee member Monica Medeiros of Melrose is among those still weighing her choice - though she is leaning toward Fred Thompson, a former Tennessee senator who officially joined the race just last week.
"I have special feelings toward Romney because he's the hometown candidate and because I know him and know a lot of people involved in his campaign," Medeiros said. But she said Thompson "represents more of the traditional Republican core values and beliefs than some of the other candidates. Because of his time in the Senate, he has a voting record to stand on where some of the other candidates don't."
Joseph C. Edwards, a member and former chairman of the Haverhill Republican City Committee, is not backing anyone just yet. Edwards said it is "too soon" to commit, noting "I'm not enthused about any of the candidates right now.
"I'm looking for somebody that has a strong platform. . . . Some of the candidates are too wishy-washy," he said. "They need to come out of the box strong, with a good platform, and be sincere in what they are saying."
Peabody Republican City Committee chairman Kosma Evangelidis also plans to study the field more before making a choice.
"I'd like to see them under pressure, how they are going to react in certain situations," said Evangelidis, who also wants to see if any other candidates jump into the fray.
David D'Arcangelo, chairman of the Malden Republican City Committee, said he is "seriously considering" Giuliani and Romney.
"They to me are the only two viable candidates on the Republican side. Both have their strengths," said D'Arcangelo, who believes a ticket with both of them on it would be a "dream team" for the party.
Danvers Republican Town Committee chairman Dan Bennett is also considering Romney and Giuliani, though he said he is leaning toward the former New York mayor.
"I think when he speaks, he speaks the truth," Bennett, a Danvers selectman, said of Giuliani, "and I like what I hear from him. And being a moderate Republican, he fits my ideals."
Kevin P. Scott of Wakefield, who lost a Republican primary bid for US Senate last year, has not settled on a candidate, he said, but "I like what is going on. I think the debates are interesting and we've got some real good choices."
Scott had been interested in Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as a candidate. But with Hagel not in the race, the two candidates he is most actively considering are Giuliani and US Representative Ron Paul of Texas, calling Giuliani a "real leader" and Paul an "honest person" who is "saying a lot of things that need to be said."
Rick Barton, a Manchester-by-the-Sea resident who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the Sixth District last year and plans another run next year, said he is taking his time in choosing a presidential candidate.
"The field is so crowded," he said. "Right now, I think it needs to be narrowed down before I start trying to figure out who I will be backing."