Thursday night's GOP debate went ahead without Donald Trump, but his absence loomed over the night.
Moderator Megyn Kelly, who has been feuding with Trump since the first debate last summer, dubbed the frontrunner "the elephant not in the room" at the start of the Des Moines showdown.
Ted Cruz immediately mocked his rival.
“I'm a maniac and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly. And Ben [Carson], you’re a horrible surgeon. Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way, we show respect to people of Iowa,” he said.
And during the debate, Cruz joked: “Gosh, if you guys ask one more mean question I may have to leave the stage.”
Rubio referred to Trump as "the greatest show on earth," while Jeb Bush dubbed him a "little teddy bear."
"I wish he was here," he added.
But as his rivals gathered for the debate, the frontrunner was just a few miles away, speaking to an adoring crowd of 700 while thousands more lined up in the streets.
“I didn't want to be here. I wanted to be five minutes away,” he admitted to the crowd. “You have to stick up for your rights.”
Trump's feud with Fox News went down to the wire.
At his event, the billionaire said: “Fox has been very nice. Asked me to come over. They wanted to apologize. They did. Is this a good thing or bad thing? No one knows. Who the hell knows because we raised over five million dollars in one day. That's not so bad.”
Fox Chairman Roger Ailes and Trump spoke three times during the day, Fox said in a statement.
“In the course of those conversations, we acknowledged [Trump's] concerns about a satirical observation we made in order to quell the attacks on Megyn Kelly, and prevent her from being smeared any further," it said.
The statement continued: “Trump offered to appear at the debate upon the condition that Fox News contributes $5 million to his charities. We explained that was not possible.”
The Trump event wasn't a complete love fest. He was interrupted by protestors but supporters shouted them down.