Republican presidential candidates minus front-runner Donald Trump engaged in one final debate on Thursday night before the Iowa Caucuses begins on Monday.
The debate was sponsored by Fox News and featured Megyn Kelly as one of the moderators.
Over the past week, drama erupted from Team Trump over the decision from Fox News to keep Megyn Kelly as a moderator despite Trump’s discomfort with the popular Fox News host.
Trump demanded that Kelly be removed as moderator and issued an ultimatum that included a threat to boycott the debate.
Fox News released a statement on Tuesday night that made it clear the news network wasn’t changing their debate format to accommodate Donald Trump’s ultimatum.
“Capitulating to politicians’ ultimatums about a debate moderator violates all journalistic standards, as do threats, including the one leveled by Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski toward Megyn Kelly” the statement reads.
Trump has accused Kelly of treating him unfairly during an earlier Fox News debate in August that saw her questioning his past treatment towards women and led to the billionaire candidate becoming upset and later tweeting some offensive comments to Kelly.
Questioning a presidential candidate about offensive comments he made to women in the past is not considered to be unfair treatment by most standards.
Now appearing thin-skinned, vindictive, and struggling to pick his battles, Donald Trump is hoping that Iowans will still turn out in force and support him on Monday.
During the debate on Thursday evening, Trump followed through with his boycott and held a war veterans rally only a few miles away.
Several of the other Republican candidates mocked Donald Trump as his presence was notably absent during the Fox News Debate.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz showed his lighter side when he mocked Trump on the debate stage.
“Now, secondly, let me say I’m a maniac and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat, and ugly. And Ben, you’re a terrible surgeon. Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way…”
Cruz later said that he is glad Donald is running and he’s glad he has produced enormous enthusiasm but explained “there is a difference between personal insults and attacks — between going into the mud with ad hominems and focusing on issues and substance.”
In past debates, Jeb Bush has engaged in heated exchanges with Trump.
On Thursday night, Bush said that he wished Trump was present and later pointed out that he was one of the only candidates who went after Trump in past debates.
“Everybody else was in the witness protection program when I went after him on behalf of what the Republican cause should be: conservative principles, believing in limited government, believing in accountability.”
Immigration became a heated topic during the debate and saw Rubio and Cruz engaging in exchanges over immigration policies and amnesty.
Bush acknowledged that he is an establishment candidate and spoke fondly about his brother and father. He also criticized Trump’s Muslim ban and spoke about the need to cooperate with the Muslim world to destroy ISIS.
“We need to deal with ISIS in the caliphate. We need a strategy to destroy ISIS there. You can’t do that without the cooperation of the Muslim world because they’re as threatened as we are” Bush said.
Cruz talked tough about going after ISIS and said America needs to rebuild the military to defeat the enemy.
“I will apologize to nobody for the vigorousness with which I will fight terrorism, go after ISIS, hunt them down wherever they are, and utterly and completely destroy ISIS” Cruz said.
Ohio Governor John Kasich had a good night and spoke about the need for the Republican Party to keep open its tent and unite more Americans.
“We cannot fix things in this country — the Social Security, the border, balancing the budget, getting wages to grow faster — unless we lead as conservatives, but we also invite people in from the other party. We have to come together as a country. And we have to stop all the divisions” Kasich said.