Nashua, New Hampshire (CNN) - Can they all get along?
Something happened at a Friday event in New Hampshire that symbolizes one potential problem as the presidential race slowly heats up: Will conservative, grass-roots activists complement - or complicate - the Republican Party's hopes of winning in 2012?
Case in point: At the gathering of state GOP party faithful in Nashua, two men disagreed, in separate interviews with CNN, over the best background for the next Republican presidential nominee.
Should it be someone with real-world experience and an impressive, non-political resume but no time in public office? Or someone with a deep political background who's been a state chief executive but who's also tarred as the "establishment"?
On one side were the ideas of Herman Cain, a potential presidential candidate who is also a darling of the Tea Party movement and has ample business credentials but has never won office.
On the other, the ideas of John Sununu, a former three-term governor of New Hampshire and chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush who is some two months out of the chairmanship of New Hampshire's GOP.
Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, delivered a speech to the Hillsborough County Republican Committee.
In addition to his oft-repeated jabs at the Obama administration, Cain trained his rhetorical fire on another target: those with deep political experience.
Flat-out acknowledging his long-shot chances, Cain said, "There are some people who do not believe that a businessman that has never held public office can get the Republican nomination and become president of the United States."
He continued: "Whenever people say, 'But you don't have any political experience. You've never held public office,' I remind them: Most of the people in Washington, D.C., have. How's that working for you?"
Meanwhile, Sununu sees political experience as an asset.
In an interview with CNN, the former governor was asked who he'd be inclined to support. Several presidential candidates will undoubtedly seek his support in his first-in-the-nation primary state.
"I really have a partiality toward the experience you get in the statehouse office. So I lean towards governors and former governors," Sununu said. "I think, historically, they've made much better presidents than others."
Sununu even lumped senators into his not-as-favorable lot, repeating that state chief executives tend to fare better as presidents.
"It's what I call the Ronald Reagan rule of thumb. He was a great governor. And he made a great president," Sununu said.
Asked why he was attending an event where the main speaker - Cain - never held political office, Sununu said, "Well, I'm willing to listen."
In a post-speech interview with CNN, Cain was asked about Sununu's words.
"My response is, quite simply: that does not surprise me, OK," Cain said. "With all due respect to governor Sununu, I could see that he would lean toward a governor or someone that's part of the political establishment."
Cain continued: "Most people that have been a big part of the political establishment, or are still a part of the political establishment, I'm not expecting their support until after I get the nomination."
"Here is the big difference: The political establishment, with all due respect, they're not going to elect me. The people are. The people are the ones that are going to give me the momentum that I need. And then, once I get the nomination, then the Republican establishment, they will want someone to win."
Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN