Republican candidates Ben Carson, John Kasich and Rand Paul say their last debate before the Iowa caucuses was ''better'' because front-runner Donald Trump wasn't in attendance. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) U.S. Republican presidential candidates say their Iowa debate hosted by Fox News on Thursday (January 28) was more of a success because Donald Trump didn't take part. "If Donald should just have his own thing, we'll have a regular civilized debate. I think it would be a lot better," candidate Rand Paul, a Kentucky senator, told reporters in the spin room after the debate. Trump skipped the televised event after a flurry of last-minute negotiations with host Fox News, holding his own rally a few miles away from the Iowa Events Center just four days before the first nominating contest of the 2016 race. The billionaire front-runner for the Republican nomination withdrew from the encounter in a spat with network anchor Megyn Kelly, whom he accuses of treating him unfairly Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes had three phone conversations with Trump on the day of the debate, a network spokesperson said, but the two failed to resolve a simmering feud that surfaced this week after Trump demanded that the network remove anchor Megyn Kelly as a debate moderator. Trump offered to appear at the debate if Fox contributed $5 million to his charities, the network said. Fox said it refused. "I think it helped, because when he's here, the plurality, the questions are directed at him. If he's not here, there's a little more equitable distribution," said candidate Ben Carson, a former neurosurgeon, after the debate. Ohio Governor John Kasich, who is also seeking the Republican nomination, agreed. "I thought it was good. I mean it was definitely more controlled again," he said. Earlier, Trump had filled to capacity a 700-seat hall at Drake University, where he told the crowd he raised $6 million for a veterans' group in a single day. His campaign did not say which group was getting the funds.