Donald Trump was noticeably absent from the GOP debate Thursday night and just days away from the Iowa Caucus, the show went on without the party’s front runner.
In Trump’s absence, the other seven candidates got more time to talk and some political analysts say without Trump, the important issues are what stood out on stage.
“I thought the debate was a whole lot better without Donald Trump—they were better able to really focus on important issues and have a substantive conversation,” said Ray Sullivan.
A political consultant in Austin, Sullivan has worked on more than a dozen political campaigns, including three presidential races. As the national spokesperson for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000 and the communications director for Rick Perry’s presidential run in 2012, Sullivan has done a number of interviews with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly.
One of the moderators of the GOP debate, Kelly is the reason behind Trump’s decision to boycott. The billionaire said Kelly is biased against him and wouldn’t be able to ask fair questions.
“She’s tough interview, you have to really be one your game,” Sullivan said.
Now part of the Jeb Bush campaign, Sullivan said he is biased against Trump, but from a professional standpoint, he said, “I think Trump’s decision was a mistake, he really missed an opportunity to talk about his message.”
Even though Trump decided to sit out of the debate, the spotlight on Trump’s absence seemed to overshadow the event. At a competing event across town, Trump held a rally where he told the crowd his campaign raised $6 million for U.S. military veterans in one day.
“Trump is really a distraction to getting to important issues like fighting ISIS, getting our economy back on track he tends to talk in sound bites and be a dramatic, TV star type of guy, so this really way a more substantive debate and that lends itself to folks like Jeb Bush.”
Political analysts named Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as the winners of the seventh GOP debate.
“These politicians run that debate, most of them don’t know what they are doing, they are talking, talking, talking and we’re raising money for incredible people,” Trump said he made the right decision by skipping the debate.
While Trump remains strong in the polls, some of the candidates may have gained some ground on the debate stage.
“If you’re toward the front of the pack or at the front of the pack, then you’re the one they are going to be after, so it comes with the territory,” Sullivan said. “It’s an important part of the process because it’s really testing the metal of who is going to be president to see if they can stay on that high perch or not.”
Cruz still wants another chance to face Trump before the Iowa Caucus. The Texas Senator challenged Trump to a one-on-one debate this weekend and Super PACs for Cruz are offering up $1.5 million dollars to veterans’ charities if Trump agrees but political experts say that’s unlikely.
“That won’t happen—first of all, I don’t think the network would go along with that,” Sullivan said there are still a lot of candidates in the race and a lot could change when the polls open in Iowa on Monday.