Donald Trump skipped Thursday night's GOP debate as promised, and his rivals used that opportunity to criticize him freely.
During the debate, co-host Megyn Kelly — the Fox News personality who helped inspire Trump's boycott — prompted the candidates to weigh in on the front-runner, referring to him at one point as "the elephant not in the room."
Gathered below are seven times Trump was brought up just to be put down.
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1. Kelly questions wisdom of Trump's boycott
— "Donald Trump has chosen not to attend this evening's presidential debate. What message do you think that sends to the voters of Iowa?" the Fox host asked Sen. Ted Cruz, The Washington Post reported
. By questioning the message of Trump's absence, she suggested it could be problematic, and invited rival candidates to tee off on Trump.
2. Cruz mocks Trump
— In response to Kelly's question, Cruz first noted that he'd visited "all 99 counties in Iowa." Then he laid into Trump: "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," he said, eliciting laughs from the crowd. "Now that we've gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way . . . I want to thank everyone here for showing the men and women of Iowa the respect to show up." Later in the debate, some also interpreted one of Cruz's remarks — "Gosh, if you guys ask one more mean question I may have to leave the stage" — as a dig at Trump.
3. Cruz suggests Trump is a mudslinger
— "Let me be clear, if Donald engages in insults or anybody else, I don't intend to reciprocate. I have not insulted Donald personally and I don't intend to," said the senator from Texas. "Now, there is a difference between personal insults and attacks — between going into the mud with ad hominems — and focusing on issues and substance. I think issues and substance, policy, and vision and record should be the meat of politics."
4. Rubio suggests Trump is a sideshow
— "Let's begin by being clear what this campaign is about. It's not about Donald Trump. He's an entertaining guy. He's the greatest show on earth," Rubio said, perhaps referencing Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. "This campaign is about the greatest country in the world and a president who has systematically destroyed many of the things that made America special."
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5. Bush calls Trump "a little teddy bear"
— Asked about his pedigree as a so-called "establishment" candidate in a race against "anti-establishment" candidates, Jeb Bush said, "Why don't we let the process work. I trust Iowans, Granite-staters, people in South Carolina, people in Nevada, to start this process out. I kind of miss Donald Trump. He was a little teddy bear to me."
6. Bush slams Trump for "disparaging" Muslims, Hispanics, the disabled
— "Mr. Trump believed that in reaction to people's fears that we should ban all Muslims. Well, that creates an environment that's toxic in our own country," he said. "I think it's important for us to be careful about the language we use, which is why I've been critical of Donald Trump. Disparaging women, disparaging hispanics, that's not a sign of strength. Making fun of disabled people — We're never going to win elections if we don't have a more broader unifying message."
7. Jim Gilmore, a veteran, slams Trump's "faux" veteran event
— Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee attended Trump's veterans fundraiser across town after the undercard debate, but during it, the former Virginia governor declared, "I'm not going to any Donald Trump event over across town on some sort of faux veteran sort of issue. I'm going to speak to you tonight about the issue that really confronts veterans. I'm going to talk to you about the concerns that they have got with the veterans administration. The lousy appeals process that they have got. The fact that sometimes they get good service at the V.A. and sometimes they don't and the fact that post-traumatic stress syndrome is not properly recognized. That psychology positions are unavailable in the Veterans Administration."
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