Republicans mock Trump over no-show

US election 2016: Republican rivals mock Trump over no-show

Republican candidates on stageImage copyright Getty Images

Donald Trump has been mocked by his Republican rivals at a televised debate in Iowa, after quitting the event in a row with Fox News.

He decided to withdraw after the broadcaster refused to drop host Megyn Kelly, whom Mr Trump accused of bias.

The billionaire held a rally nearby, in honour of war veterans, that threatened to overshadow the debate itself.

On Monday, voters in Iowa are due to pick their presidential nominee for each party.

Days ahead of that critical test, Mr 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 humour 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 the billionaire businessman, who has often tormented Mr Bush in previous debates.

“I kind of miss Donald Trump; he was a teddy bear to me,” he said with smile.

Follow the latest in the debate

Other highlights:

  • Florida Senator Marco Rubio stood by a previous pledge to shut down mosques where radicalisation is taking place
  • He also promised to tear up the nuclear deal with Iran on “day one” of being president
  • Mr Cruz was booed when he accused the Fox presenters of encouraging attacks on him
  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he knew nothing about the infamous, politically-motivated traffic jam ordered by his aides
  • Kentucky Senator Paul raised concerns about the US expanding military role in Syria

Elsewhere in Des Moines at the same time, Mr Trump led a raucous rally in honour 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.

Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Des Moines

In the end they came to praise Donald Trump and not to bury him. Ted Cruz gave the billionaire frontrunner a mild jab at the beginning of his opening statement, but then he added that he was glad Mr Trump was running. Marco Rubio said he was an “entertaining guy”.

After that, Mr Trump was largely ignored, with the candidates sticking to their talking points. The only bit of real drama came when Senators Rubio and Cruz were confronted with video clips of their past conflicting statements on immigration reform.

It gave former Florida Governor Jeb Bush a chance to point out that he, unlike Mr Rubio, is standing by his commitment to immigration reform.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also found a winning line, when he noted that he needed a “Washington-to-English dictionary” to understand the two senators.

Christie and Bush likely posted the best performance of the debate, but it’s hard to see how Mr Trump – who was made it through the night largely unscathed – didn’t also come out on top.

The broadcaster released a statement that said Mr Trump offered to appear at the debate if Fox contributed $ 5m to his charities, but they refused.

Data released by Google after the debate suggested that search interest in Mr Trump still far surpassed the other candidates.

Many observers on social media thought the event was duller without the brash New Yorker.

Image copyright Twitter

But others remarked how not having his dominating personality to contend with helped other candidates to blossom.

Image copyright Twitter

Some of the night’s most heated moments were provided during exchanges about immigration.

Mr Cruz and Mr Rubio were both forced to explain video clips of previous statements that appeared to be at odds with their hardline campaign pledges.

They then turned on each other, with Mr 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”.

Mr Bush applauded Dulce Candy and said “we should be a welcoming nation”.

Media captionThree things Trump says
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina and Mick Huckabee held an undercard debate earlier

The Iowa caucuses on Monday are seen as the first real test of the election campaign, and the beginning of a series of state-by-state contests to chose delegates for both Republicans and Democrats.

Unlike a primary, which is a traditional election featuring secret ballots on polling day, the caucuses in Iowa is a meeting of registered party voters and activists where they discuss the candidates and then vote.

More: How do US primaries and caucuses work

Top Trump – Pit one Republican against another and see who wins

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