The Note: The Debate, In Case You Missed It

VIDEO: Seventh Republican Presidential Debate In A
WATCH Seventh Republican Presidential Debate In A Minute


--5 MOMENTS THAT MATTERED AT LAST NIGHT’S DEBATE: Just days before the Iowa caucuses, seven Republican presidential candidates met on a debate stage in Des Moines hoping to sway the voters of the Hawkeye State one last time. But unlike so many other GOP debates, last night’s event seemed tamer than usual in the absence of frontrunner Donald Trump. The billionaire real estate mogul was across town hosting his own event raising money for veterans instead of being on the stage. ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, RYAN STRUYK and ANDREA GONZALES have more on five moments that mattered at the Trump-less final debate before Monday’s caucuses.

--THE BEST LINES:  ABC’s PAOLA CHAVEZ highlights the best lines of the forum. WATCH THE DEBATE IN A MINUTE, courtesy of ABC’s TOM THORNTON and ALI DUKAKIS:

--UNDERCARD RECAP: For Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina and Jim Gilmore -- the four candidates who participated in the Fox News “undercard” debate last night -- it was not only the last time they will meet before the Iowa caucuses but it’s also possible it could be the last time they appear on a presidential debate stage at all -- depending on how they finish on Monday. ABC’s PAOLA CHAVEZ, JEFF NAFT, ANDREA GONZALES-PAUL and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI round up five moments that mattered.

--ANALYSIS -- ABC’s RICK KLEIN: It turns out that a world without Donald Trump is filled with Donald Trump anyway. To many in the Republican Party, Thursday night’s debate was a dream scenario -- seven candidates, and not a reality TV show billionaire in sight. No huge walls were hypothetically built, and no religious groups were banned from entry into the United States. Yet Trump was still everywhere. He was there for viewers on another channel, giant American flag behind him, two other Republican candidates beside him, chants of “USA, USA, USA” enveloping them. He was also there with the candidates as the “elephant not in the room,” as moderator Megyn Kelly put it, or as Jeb Bush’s non-showing “little teddy bear.” His absence was felt, moreover, when the leading candidates tangled over the hot-button issue of immigration. Trump wasn’t there to take heat for them, or to face any real scrutiny of his own.

--THE TRUMP FACTOR: Even though Donald Trump chose not to attend last night’s debate, he certainly wasn’t entirely absent from the debate stage.  Over the course of the two-hour debate, Trump’s name was mentioned 10 times by the candidates and 6 times by the moderators, according to ABC’s JEFF NAFT. Within the first thirty minutes of the debate, Trump’s name was mentioned eleven times. His mentions dropped off after that.


THIS WEEK ON ‘THIS WEEK’: George Stephanopoulos anchors an action-packed show, just one day until the very first votes are cast in Iowa, with the latest analysis on the 2016 presidential race from the powerhouse roundtable featuring ABC News contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Purple Strategies chair and founder of Alex Castellanos, ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, and editor and publisher of The Nation Katrina vanden Heuvel. See the whole political picture, Sunday on “This Week.”



TIMELINE: HOW THE REPUBLICAN DEBATE AND TRUMP EVENT UNFOLDED SIDE-BY-SIDE. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump decided to skip last night’s GOP presidential debate hosted by Fox News and hold a separate event elsewhere in Des Moines, Iowa to benefit veterans. The dueling events made for an interesting split screen for viewers trying to take in both events. Here’s what unfolded at the GOP debate and the Trump event at roughly the same times tonight, courtesy of ABC’s VERONICA STRACQUALURSI:

NOTED: TRUMP SAYS HE MISSES DEBATE WHILE HOSTING COUNTER EVENT. Trump opened his counter event to the final GOP debate -- which he says is designed to raise money for veterans -- by telling the crowd he enjoys the debates. “I didn’t want to be here...I wanted to be about 5 minutes away,” Trump said to the crowd at Drake University. But he said he was mistreated by Fox News, which was hosting the debate. ABC’s JOHN SANTUCCI has more.

JEB BUSH, MARCO RUBIO SPAR OVER IMMIGRATION FLIP-FLOPS. During Thursday’s Donald Trump-less GOP presidential debate, despite the front-runner’s absence, there was no lack of contentiousness -- particularly among rivals Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. The two Floridians engaged in a heated debate over immigration, each criticizing the other for changing their stances, ABC’S CANDACE SMITH notes.

5 WAYS SANDERS’ CAMPAIGN DIFFERS FROM OBAMA’S IN 2008. With the Iowa caucuses nearly upon us, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are trying to embrace President Obama and identify as the rightful heir to his legacy. On Wednesday, the president and Sanders met “informally” in the Oval Office. The Sanders campaign has repeatedly compared their grassroots and fundraising support to the Obama 2008 campaign and Clinton is mentioning her loyalty and connections to the president consistently on the campaign trail, noting how she is “proud of the progress we have made under President Obama.” It may be an awkward meeting, in an interview with Politico this week, the president distanced himself from Sanders, seeming to embrace Clinton despite assurances the White House would remain neutral in the increasingly bitter intra-party fight. ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE looks at five reasons why Bernie Sanders may not be the Barack Obama of 2016:



@brianstelter: Did Fox News apologize to The Donald right before the debate? Or did the network simply "acknowledge his concerns?" 

@blakehounshell: An Iowa win might make the Trump train unstoppable  great @mikeallen and @EliStokols story

@JonahNRO: Kill the Iowa Caucuses. …

@wpjenna: What it's like to attend a press conference on Donald Trump's jet: 

@mashable: The winner of the #GOPDebate was not Marco Rubio, or Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush. It was moderator Megyn Kelly.