There was no empty podium for Donald Trump, but his absence was immediately acknowledged as the 7th GOP debate kicked off Thursday night. The first question went to Ted Cruz, via Megyn Kelly, who said, "Senator Cruz, before we get to the issues, let's address the elephant not in the room tonight. Donald Trump has chosen not to attend this evening's presidential debate. What message do you think that sends to the voters of Iowa?" After a slew of thanks to Iowa, Cruz did his best Trump: "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..."
Except he wasn't really out of the way. Cruz continued: "I want to thank everyone here for showing the men and women of Iowa the respect to show up and make the case to the people of this state and the people of the country why each of us believe we would make the best commander in chief." And Trump still wasn't out of the way. Kelly went on to ask Cruz a follow-up question about Cruz's initial praise for Trump. And ... it didn't stop there. This from Jeb Bush: "I kind of miss Donald Trump, he was a little teddy bear to me."