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Trump wins Republican debate - despite not being there

Trump’s decision to boycott and pick a fight with Fox seemed to be particularly well-timed, allowing him dominate news coverage for days.

Image: Jae C. Hong

WITH DONALD TRUMP down the road meeting military veterans, the rest of the potential Republican nominees were left to address his absence from the last televised debate before Monday’s Iowa caucus.

The candidates couldn’t resist mocking Trump, who boycotted the final debate because he felt he had been treated poorly by moderator Megyn Kelly before Iowa kicks off voting in the 2016 campaign.

“I’m a maniac and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly,” said Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who is competing with Trump for the lead in Iowa. Cruz then thanked his fellow candidates for showing Iowa voters respect by showing up.

Trump’s absence put the spotlight on Cruz, as well as on Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who needs a strong showing in Iowa in order to stay in the top tier of candidates.

The two senators were confronted with video clips suggesting they had changed their positions on immigration, one of the most contentious issues among Republicans.

Rubio accused Cruz, who took many of the blows from other candidates, of being “willing to say or do anything to get votes”.

While Fox covered the debate, other cable channels aired portions of his rally at Drake University, likely pulling away at least some TV viewers.

Trump was joined by fellow candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, who spoke briefly at the rally after appearing in an early undercard debate for low-polling candidates.

Trump’s decision to boycott and pick a fight with Fox seemed to be particularly well-timed, allowing him dominate news coverage for days.

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Just days before Iowa’s leadoff caucuses, there were none of the breakout moments that have sometimes characterised the more colourful debates featuring Trump.

While the candidates argued over immigration, foreign policy and who showed up for what vote, Trump’s rally raised millions of dollars for military veterans.

With just days until the first vote is cast, Trump’s boycott could yet prove a masterstroke.

With Associated Press reporting

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