Donald Trump mocked by rival Republicans at last debate before Iowa

Mr Trump pulled out of the debate after a row with Fox News

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Friday 29 January 2016 11:23 GMT
Cruz on Trump - I'm a maniac. And everyone on this stage is stupid, fat, and ugly.

Donald Trump may have been physically absent from the Republican’s debate - but his presence loomed large on Thursday night as other candidates took the opportunity to mock him.

In the final debate before the Iowa caucus on Monday, the Republican frontrunner dominated the conversation, at least in the early part of the debate.

Asked about the ‘elephant not in the room” by Fox News moderators, two rivals -Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush - poked fun at the the tycoon.

Mr Trump was noticeable by his absence
Mr Trump was noticeable by his absence (AP)

“Let me say I'm a maniac, and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly,” Mr Cruz, who is running second to Mr Trump in the polls, said with a straight face.

“Now that we've gotten the Donald Trump part out of the way, I want to thank everyone here for showing the men and women of Iowa the respect to show up.”

CBS reported that Mr Cruz later made a pitch to Mr Trump's supporters, saying that he is still “glad Donald is running and glad he has produced enormous enthusiasm.”

“Every Donald Trump voter or potential voter, I hope to earn your support,” Mr Cruz said.

“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. Now there is a difference between personal insults and attacks, between going into the mud with ad hominems and focusing on issues and substance…That's fair game.

“But but that's where I’m going to focus, that is how I focused from the beginning of the campaign and it's how I intend to continue going forward.”

Jeb Bush, who has been the target of several Trump attacks over the course of the campaign, later deadpanned his response to the front-runner's debate absence.

“I kind of miss Donald Trump. He was a little teddy bear to me,” he said to loud laughter. “We always had such a loving relationship during the debates, and in between the tweets. I kind of miss him. I wish he was here.“

Mr Bush, whose campaign has markedly failed to ignite despite him being an early favourite, also slapped at his fellow Republican candidates, who he said were “in the witness protection programme” while he alone :went after [Trump] on behalf of what the Republican cause should be — conservative principles, believing in limited government, believing in accountability.”

To the surprise of many political observers, the reality television star and property magnate withdrew from the debate Mr Trump decided to withdraw after Fox News refused to drop debate host Megyn Kelly, whom he had accused of bias after they clashed at the party’s very first debate.

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

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