Donald Trump’s absence the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses was mocked by his rivals, who tried to fill the space vacated by the frontrunner’s boycott by attacking each other on immigration and other issues.
The New York billionaire decided to withdraw after Fox News refused to drop debate host Megyn Kelly, whom he accused of bias.
Donald Trump held a rally nearby – in honor of war veterans – that threatened to overshadow the debate itself.
On February 1, voters in Iowa are due to pick their presidential nominee for each party.
Days ahead of that critical test, Donald Trump’s absence on the stage in Des Moines was keenly felt by his seven rivals in the race to be Republican presidential nominee.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz addressed it with humor in the opening minutes by throwing mock insults at his rivals.
“I’m a maniac and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly, and Ben [Carson], you’re a terrible surgeon,” he said.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also poked fun at Donald Trump – his chief tormenter in previous debates – by saying how much he missed him.
Elsewhere in Des Moines at the same time, Donald Trump led a raucous rally in honor of the country’s war veterans.
“When you’re treated badly, you have to stick up for your rights,” he said, referring to his row with Fox.
Fox News released a statement saying that Donald Trump offered to appear at the debate if the broadcaster contributed $5 million to his charities, but they refused.
Data released by Google after the debate suggested that search interest in Donald Trump still far surpassed the other candidates.
Many observers on social media thought the event was duller without Donald Trump.
Some of the night’s most heated moments were provided during exchanges about immigration.
Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were both forced to explain video clips of previous statements that appeared to be at odds with their hard-line campaign pledges.
They then turned on each other, with Marco Rubio saying immigration was “the lie that Ted’s campaign is built upon”.
An Iraq war veteran who came to the US from Mexico as a child appeared via YouTube to tell the candidates that “some of the comments in this campaign make us question our place in this country”.
Jeb Bush applauded Dulce Candy and said “we should be a welcoming nation”.
The Iowa caucuses on February 1 are seen as the first real test of the election campaign, and the beginning of a series of state-by-state contests to choose delegates for both Republicans and Democrats.
Unlike a primary, which is a traditional election featuring secret ballots on polling day, the caucuses in Iowa are meetings of registered party voters and activists where they discuss the candidates and then vote.
Donald Trump’s plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants from the US has been attacked by his party rivals in the fourth Republican debate on Fox Business.
The Republican frontrunner’s hard-line proposal was attacked as impractical and divisive by John Kasich and Jeb Bush, who are also running for the Republican presidential nomination.
Donald Trump, a billionaire New Yorker who has been leading in the polls, was booed as he tried to counter-attack.
Another source of friction at the debate in Milwaukee was foreign policy.
The eight candidates were divided on whether the US should do more to intervene in the Middle East, especially in the fight against ISIS.
Photo Fox Business
However, immigration sparked the biggest confrontation, when Donald Trump said a wall should be built at the US-Mexico border and all migrants living illegally in the US must be deported.
This was met with disdain by John Kasich, the governor of Ohio.
“Come on, folks, we all know you can’t pick them up and ship them back across the border. It’s a silly argument. It’s not an adult argument.”
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said it would tear families apart and played into the hands of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
The fourth Republican debate, hosted by Fox Business, began by talking about raising the minimum wage, which several candidates opposed.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio said vocational education was instead a better way to unlock American potential.
“Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”
At one point, Marco Rubio and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul tangled over the issue of military spending, with Rand Paul saying his rival’s plan to increase military spending went against conservative principles.
“We can’t even have an economy if we’re not safe,” responded Marco Rubio.
Republican frontrunners Donald Trump and Ben Carson, with no political experience, were under attack from the start of the third GOP presidential debate in Colorado.
Ohio Governor John Kasich condemned their “fantasy tax plans” and added: “We can’t elect someone who doesn’t know how to do the job.”
Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who has edged past Donald Trump in the latest national polls, had a quiet night in Boulder.
His tax proposal, which is based on biblical tithes, was decried by John Kasich, who also dismissed Donald Trump’s plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and build a wall on the Mexico border.
Political friendships were strained by some of the testy exchanges, notably one between former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
Jeb Bush urged Marco Rubio, once his protégé, to resign from the Senate because of his poor voting record.
The media were also in the firing line – Texas Senator Ted Cruz got the night’s biggest applause when he attacked the hosts, CNBC for stirring confrontation.
“The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. This is not a cage match.”
The hostility against CNBC continued after the debate when Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus complained about the “gotcha questions”.
The four lowest-polling Republican candidates squared off in an early debate.
Lindsey Graham, a senator from South Carolina, got the most laughs, especially when he said Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders “went to the Soviet Union on his honeymoon and I don’t think he ever came back”.
Primary voting begins in February in Iowa, 10 months before the US goes to the polls to vote for its new president.
Donald Trump has dominated a second Republican debate between the top GOP presidential candidates in the 2016 election.
The front-runner has come under attack from all sides in a debate with an outsider candidate – former tech executive Carly Fiorina – challenging Donald Trump in a way few rivals have.
Donald Trump, a billionaire businessman with no political experience, refused to apologize over comments about the wife of Jeb Bush.
And he was on the receiving end when Carly Fiorina drew huge applause facing up to his recent jibe over her looks.
Fifteen Republicans are vying to be the party’s White House nominee in 2016.
With more than a year until polling day, the second Republican debate in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California saw Jeb Bush and Donald Trump trading blows several times.
Their most notable clash in the debate, hosted by CNN, came when former Florida Governor Jeb Bush demanded that the tycoon apologize to his wife for saying he was weak on immigration because she is Mexican. Donald Trump refused.
But the loudest audience response of the night came when Carly Fiorina was asked about an interview in which Donald Trump said she could not be president because: “Look at that face.”
Carly replied, to thunderous applause: “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”
Moderator Jake Tapper gives Carly Fiorina the chance to respond to Donald Trump’s comments about her in Rolling Stone magazine in which he said: “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that. Can you imagine that as the face of our next president?”
Donald Trump later said he was talking about her persona, not her appearance.
If Donald Trump predictably took plenty of punches, as the candidate who has held a commanding lead for much of the campaign, he gave as good he got throughout the debate in his trademark style.
Donald Trump returned fire on Kentucky Senator Rand Paul with an oblique personal insult about his appearance, mocked the fiscal record of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and introduced himself with the words: “I say, not in a braggadocios way, I’ve made billions and billions of dollars.”
A second-tier debate for the four other Republican candidates happened on the same stage earlier.
In a combative atmosphere, the four were split over the case of Kim Davis, a Kentucky clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples due to her Christian faith.
The Democratic Party will hold its first debate in Nevada in October, also hosted by CNN.
By next summer, each party will have a presidential nominee who will do battle in the race for the White House.
Donald Trump is still leading the Republican race for the White House after causing further controversies in the first debate in Cleveland.
His refusal to rule out a third-party run drew boos from the audience on Thursday night.
Donald Trump stood by offensive comments he has made in the past about women.
The ten candidates in Cleveland, selected by Fox News on the basis of recent national polls, provided a frank and bruising exchange of views.
Facing some tough questions from the debate moderators, the candidates tried to stand out in a crowded Republican field.
Donald Trump stumbled on his past support for a national healthcare system but his most uncomfortable moment came when moderator Megyn Kelly challenged him on his views about women.
Photo Getty Images
“You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals,” Megyn Kelly said.
The tycoon answered by joking that he only said that about actress Rosie O’Donnell and stating that political correctness was one of the country’s biggest problems.
The crowd became hostile when Donald Trump said he would run as an independent, an admission that enraged Rand Paul.
“He buys and sells politicians of all stripes,” said the senator.
One of the loudest rounds of applause was for Marco Rubio when he mocked Hillary Clinton, who leads the Democratic field.
“First let me say, I think God has blessed us. He’s blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates. The Democrats can’t even find one.”
On August 6, the Democratic Party announced it would hold its first debate in Nevada in October, hosted by CNN.
By next summer, each party will have a presidential nominee who will do battle in the race for the White House. Votes will finally be cast in November 2016.
The Republican field is one of the largest in recent years. Seven other candidates took part in an earlier debate that featured several attacks on Donald Trump.
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry said Donald Trump was running a campaign based on celebrity, while former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina mocked him over his Clinton ties.
While the debates were going on, Hillary Clinton was in Los Angeles for a campaign fundraising event attended by several celebrities, including reality TV star Kim Kardashian and her husband, Kanye West.
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