The ghost of Trump definitely loomed over the debate, despite his absence.

Live Coverage of the GOP Debate

We will update this throughout the evening.

Our round up of talk time from the night:

FiveThirtyEight.com showed who got the most questions tonight. Looks like Trump’s absence helped Rubio and Cruz the most.


Ben Carson just said, “I am very much against the government being involved in every aspect of our lives.”

Talking bad about the government is a popular, and smart, thing for Republicans to hammer on. A recent Pew Research poll found 57% of Americans are frustrated with the federal government and 22% are angry. And that discontent shades red. Of Republicans, 32% are angry, while just 12% of Dems say they are.


Another relevant audience question: this time about hate crimes against Muslims.

Jeb Bush has repeatedly critiqued Donald Trump for his blanket statements about Muslim Americans, and he did so again in his answer, taking a more moderate stance. He said the U.S. should focus on fighting the Islamic State, not Muslim Americans, who should feel “safe.”

A colleague just noted that it seems all the audience questions are going to the people who will best answer them. Rand Paul got the criminal justice and race question — we’d be curious to see how Cruz/Rubio/Bush would answer that. And now asking Bush about Muslims when that might be a more interesting question for Cruz.


This one comes up a lot in Republican debates — faulting Obama for the decline in average income. But average income started dropping before he got there. He certainly hasn’t turned it around, but these statements are misleading:


Well, looks like Donald Trump avoiding the debate hasn’t stopped him from being the most discussed candidate. Data from Twitter:


Where does Ted Cruz really stand on the immigration issue? Did he flip flop like the moderators implied? Slate has a great rundown of the whole issue. Basically, it looks like Cruz hedged on the issue, not picking a side, because he wanted to do what would favor him politically. Savvy guy.


Honestly, this debate is feeling much more substantive than others — and it might be the absence of Trump. Other major policy differences are coming out, like Rubio and Bush battling it out on immigration. There hasn’t been much room for subtle differences because Trump’s talk on things like immigration have been so dramatic (i.e., deport everybody, build a wall).


About Chris Christie saying his big budget priority would be to end funding to Planned Parenthood…


Wow! A climate change question. And from the Fox News moderator! That’s something we haven’t seen in other debates.

But Rubio is running away from the question…says he’s never supported cap and trade.


A rare question in a GOP debate about police violence and race. But it went to Sen. Rand Paul, who is also the Republican candidate who actually talks about criminal justice reform.


Classic Ben Carson line. Talking about not being PC seems to be the only thing he has left.


Ted Cruz seems ready to pull a Trump move. He told the moderators if they asked him any more mean questions he would leave the stage. Seriously? This coming from a guy who is supposed to be a master debater.


A couple of our fact checks:


So far Trump has dominated the conversation, even though he’s not there.

Part of all the Trump talk comes from the questions. Megyn Kelly’s first one to Cruz was about Trump. His response:

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