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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Post-GOP Debate Analysis. Aired 11p-Midnight ET

Aired January 28, 2016 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[23:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: -- now debating without him, no one on contest of election 2016 the leading Republican skips his own parties debate, holds a competing events of his own just three miles away.

Donald Trump at his own rally is leading rivals across town debating without him. No one expected that and again, no one expected him to get a war with Fox News or John McCain war record and survivor same and the other things he said and still be the frontrunner he so clearly is.

So tonight, in addition to the debate, the debators and all the happened on that stage there's also the Trump rally, the Trump feud and the larger Trump factor to talk about. And Donald Trump himself has interview tonight with CNN's Brianna Keilar that took place right before the debate, right before his event on his plane.

We'll bring you all of that highlights from the debate in case you missed anything and analysis from the best political minds around, but first here is some of the key moments from tonight's debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me say, I'm a maniac and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat, and ugly and Ben you're a terrible surgeon.

Now that we've got in a Donald Trump portion out of the way.

JEB BUSH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I kind of miss Donald Trump he was a little teddy bear to me. We always said such a loving relationship during his debates and in-between in the tweets, I kind of miss him I wish he was here.

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The bulk collection of your phone data, the invasion of your privacy did not stop one terrorist attack. I don't think you have to give up your liberty for a false sense of security. When we look at this bulk collection, the court has looked at this. Even the court declared it to be illegal, if we want to collect the records of terrorist. Let's do it with the old fashion way let's chose the fourth amendment. Let's put a name on a warrant, let's us a judge for it. Let's respect the history of our country. John Adam said that we fought the war for independence because we wanted to fight against generalizes warrants. Let's don't forget that.

CHRIS WALLACE, MODERATOR: Governor Bush.

CRUZ: Chris? Chris I was mentioned in that question.

BUSH: No, you weren't. Your name wasn't mentioned. Ted.

CRUZ: Actually, I was ...

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: I don't think that your name was mentioned. I think the vote, no. Sir, sir.

CRUZ: Chris, you question that you ....

WALLACE: I think the question was about -- it's not my question that you got a chance to respond to. It's his answer. You don't get 30 seconds to responds to me.

CRUZ: You're question was you have disagree..

WALLANCE: You don't get 30 seconds to respond to me.

CRUZ: (inaudible) in his opening statement.

WALLANCE: IF I could go on. Sir, I know you like to argue about the rules , but we're going to conduct a debate.

CRUZ: Chris, I would note that the last four questions have been, "Rand, please attack Ted. Marco, please attack Ted. Chris, please attack Ted. Jeb, please attack Ted.

Let me just say this ...

WALLACE: It is a debate, sir.

CRUZ: Well, no, no. A debate actually is a policy issue, but I will say this. Gosh, if you guys ask one more mean question. I may have to leave the stage.

MEGYN KELLY, MODERATOR: Dr. Carson, this week a female Muslim who serve in the U.S. Air Force asked Hillary Clinton the question, she asked whether the United States is still the best place in which raise her three Muslim children. Given what she perceives as a rise Islamophobia in this country. Do you think that the GOP messaging on Muslims has stoked the flames of bias on this as the Democrats suggest, and how would you answer this veteran?

BEN CARSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I don't know about the GOP messaging, but I can tell you about my messaging. You know, we need to stop allowing political correctness to dictator policies, because it's going to kill us if we don't.

But you know I believe in Teddy Roosevelt philosophy. Teddy Roosevelt said, we are a nation of immigrants. As such, everybody is welcome from any race, any country, any religion, if they want to be Americans. If they want to accept our values and our laws. If not, they can stay where they are.

KELLY: Governor Bush, do you agree that Senator Rubio has not reversed himself on his immigration promise?

BUSH: Well, I'm kind of confused because he was the sponsor of the Gang of Eight bill that did require a bunch of thresholds but ultimately allowed for citizenship over an extended period of time. I mean, that's fact. And he asked me to support that. And I supported him because I think people, when you're elected you need to do things.

And he led the charge to finally fix this immigration problem that is existed now for us as Marco says for 30 years. And then he cut and run because it wasn't popular amongst the conservatives I guess.

Here's what I believe. And I wrote a book about this called Immigration Wars. You can get it at $2.99 on Amazon's. It's not a bestseller. I can promise you. There won't be any -- you can get it. It's affordable for everybody.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's interesting that Jeb mentions the book. That's the book where you changed your position on immigration because you use to support a path to citizenship.

BUSH: So did you.

RUBIO: Well, but you changed the -- in the book.

BUSH: Yeah. So did you Marco.

RUBIO: You wrote a book where you changed your position from -- now you wrote a book where you changed your position from a path to citizenship to a path to legalization. And the bottom line is this, we are not going to be able to do anything on this issue until we first bring a legal immigration under control.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If America does not seen like a welcoming place for immigrants entrepreneurs, will be American economy suffer?

KELLY: Dr. Carson that's one for you.

CARSON: Oh, OK. Great.

[23:05:05] CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to ask the people in the audience. Like, I'm standing here, I watched the video of Senator Cruz. I watched the video said it to Rubio. I heard what they said. And this is why you need to send someone from outside of Washington to Washington.

I feel like I need -- I feel like I need a Washington to the English dictionary converter, right? I mean, I heard what they both said, I saw it on the video. And the fact this is what makes a difference when you're a governor. You can change your mind. Ted can change his mind. Marco can change his mind. It's perfectly legal in this country to change your mind. But when you're a governor you have to admit it. You can't hide behind parliamentary tricks. That's the difference and that's the kind of leader we need in the White House. Stop the Washington bull and let's get things done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The candidates tonight minus Donald Trump though by our count he was mentioned on the stage by his rivals 13 times as we wait for the candidates to make their way to our microphone.

Let's bring in the panel, Chief National Correspondent and anchor of Inside Politics John King, Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, Senior Political Commentator, former Obama advisor David Axelrod, Chief political Correspondent Dana Bash. Also our Political Commentator Jeff Lord and Trump supporter Amanda Carpenter, former communications director with Senator Ted Cruz and in the borrow Bush supporter and friend of Rubio and Kevin Madden is Republican strategist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You say that all without taking a breath.

COOPER: That was right, Good night everybody. Thank you very much.

Mississippi this candidates on a stage without Donald Trump in different dynamic, and some candidates who haven't shine as well did a lot better tonight without Donald Trump, Jeb Bush among them.

DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: Yeah, absolutely. Look it may have been a better debate, it just wasn't as good television. I mean, it was -- it drag at points there was a great ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, it felt like one of the Democratic debates.

AXELFROD: Great exchange on immigration I thought.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.

AXELFROD: But think about it, they were beating each other upon immigration and Donald Trump sitting over there who really is going to try to own that issue. And he's not even in the crossfire there. I still believe I said earlier, I still believe that it was a good gamble for Trump not to be there tonight. Because he saw his opponents go after each other and he pretty much gave it away.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know the Fox News very cleverly used old videos of Cruz and Rubio and their previous positions on immigration.

COOPER: I kept wondering had they did they have that video set up for Donald Trump to let it go.

BORGER: Hello, that's just what I'm going to say.

COOPER: Because if anybody has old video he's got ...

BORGER: Yeah, on issues like abortion on questions of Hillary Clinton, on questions of health care, and I guarantee you they would have set that exactly up for Donald Trump so he may have been better off in being across town. Because I think that those videos were very difficult particularly for Ted Cruz on immigration.

And it led to this fight, as David was saying between Cruz and Rubio saying, "Who's authentic on immigration. Who's the true conservative here?" And Rubio basically called Cruz a liar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And got booed for him.

BORGER: And got booed.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS: Rubio said it is the line on which Ted Cruz's campaign has faced, that he is the only the anti- amnesty guy and he's the only consist to conservative. And if you look Cruz's shift to this advertising right now in Iowa the one thing he is doing now is going after Rubio saying he's an amnesty guy, because the Cruz's people want to keep Marco Rubio down. They don't think he can come first or second, they think that's Trump, Cruz land, but they're trying to keep Rubio as low possible, so he can say I run a strong third and carry that into New Hampshire.

But for both of them though, you see have a dozen clips of them saying one thing, and then they both stood they're look in the eye figure ignore that person. Just saw how looks a lot like me. Because no I don't mean any of, if I said it I didn't mean it. Cruz, nope, nope, wanted, you know, there's the video.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITCAL CORRESPONDENT: And that was one of the most striking moments when it comes to Cruz. In Iowa what we're taking on the next four days, he's the whole ball game. I mean unless something crazy happens, Rubio doesn't have the chance, he just trying to get a strong third. But the fact that Rubio does a pretty big blow to him on the issue of authenticity, I mean, not just whole thing of Cruz.

He's trying to make the point that he is the real conservative, the truth conservative, the pure guy. One of them to the Iowa conservative and Rubio turn to him saying, he'll say anything to get elected. That's a pretty powerful moment. And I think it was one of many that Rubio had, the question going in was who's going to shine without Trump on the stage, Rubio.

AXELFROD: Was interesting to see, how often he tried to tie himself to his supporters Steve King the anti-immigration.

BASH: Thank God we weren't drinking every time he said Steve King.

(CROSSTALK)

JEFF LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it maybe time to bring the band back together for these guys because they -- I mean, I agree with David, I think it was kind of boring.

COOPER: He's amazing without Donald Trump on that stage. And even the energy some of the other candidates have seemed reduced ...

AXELFORD: The band was there Jeff the lead singer ... LORD: Good think he wasn't there. I notice in the Washington Post tonight they're saying that Donald Trump is denominating social media tonight that the conversation in social media is about him and he wasn't there.

[23:10:07] And I think that says, you know, that the (inaudible) current. Now whether this translates into caucus votes, we have yet to see. But I still think the phenomenon is there.

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SEN. TED CRUZ: Yeah, without Donald Trump there, I think a lot of the moderators who are asking the same old questions got the same old answers. I've seen this movie before I have seem Trump or excuse me Cruz and Rubio fight over this immigration question. Everyone's been there done that. I think if people's minds are pretty much well decided in any debate over the Gang of Eight is not bad for Rubio.

That said, I think this race is essentially frozen. You have Donald Trump in his own bizarre of orbit somewhere else. Everyone else is fighting on stage, Cruz, Rubio, Jeb, Rand. I think made a good showing to that. And Christie complaining he can't understand legislation and so nothing is changed.

So going into Iowa caucuses, I think everyone is pretty well set up. I don't think there's going to be any surprises other than we see if Trump's polls translate into votes.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: OK. I think what did change tonight is that we've got a glimpse finally of what this race would have looked like had Donald Trump not being in it. We, you know that Donald Trump show was going on across town. Those of us that have been warning and asking and thirsting for a policy battle and a policy debate got one today. Was it more substantial? Yes. Was it more boring? Less entertaining? Yes.

So I think you know, we saw what it is that Donald Trump brings to the table. He did bring viewers. He does bring entertainment. He does bring showmanship. He does bring persona. I thought the immigration exchange all of it. The part between Jeb and Marco was emotionally charged. It was poignant. I know these two guys. They've worked together on this issue. They worked together for so many years on this issue. They've been on, you know, on the same side of this issue for so long. It was frankly dramatic and painful for me to watch in a certain way. And that you know, the ...

COOPER: We'll play some of that exchange and so the viewers know exactly what you're referring to. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

KELLY: Governor Bush, do you agree that Senator Rubio has not revered himself on his immigration promise?

BUSH: Well, I'm kind of confused because he was the sponsor of the Gang of Eight bill that didn't require a bunch of thresholds but they'll ultimately allowed for the citizenship over an extended period of time. I mean, that's a fact. And he asked me to support that. And I supported him because I think people, when you are elected, you need to do things.

And he led the charge to finally fix this immigration problem that has existed now for us as Marco says for 30 years. And then he cut and run because it wasn't popular amongst the conservatives I guess.

Here's what I believe. And I wrote a book about this called Immigration Wars. You can get it at $2.99 on Amazon. It's not a bestseller.

RUBIO: It's interesting that Jeb mentions the book. That's the book where you changed your position on immigration because you used to support a path to citizenship.

BUSH: So did you?

RUBIO: Well but you changed the -- in the book.

BUSH: Yeah, So did you, Marco.

RUBIO: You wrote a book where you changed their position from now and let you -- and you wrote a book where you changed their position from a path to citizenship, to a path to legalization. And the bottom line is this. We are not going to be able to do anything on this issue until we first bring at legal immigration under control.

BUSH: Marco, Marco.

KELLY: Go ahead.

BUSH: He brought up my name. I have supported consensus approach to solving this problem wherever it came up. And in 2007, it almost passed when my brother was the president of United States. A bipartisan approach got closed. Barrack Obama actually had the poison ill to stop it then.

And when you led the charge with the Gang of Eight, I supported it because you asked me to. I think it's important for people that in elected office to try to force consistent to solve problems. There's never going to be a perfect bill.

KELLY: All right.

BUSH: But when you didn't do that, and you ask people to support, you shouldn't cut and run.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

NAVARRO: So let me give a little consent to that because I was smacked in the middle of all of this. You know, back then. Jeb Bush wrote that book before the Gang of Eight bill was introduced before it was revealed. He got ahead of the game. He didn't think the Gang of Eight Bill was actually going to include a path of legal to legalization. He thought it was you know a path of citizenship. So he supported in the pact of legalization thinking that's what the Gang of Eight Bill was going to include to his surprise to many of our surprise. The Gang of Eight bill went much further than that. And also let me give a little concept ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ted Cruz help to exposed to that amendment about that.

NAVARRO: Well, let me give you a little bit of conference on the Ted Cruz issue because I was also -- You know, I was in the midst of the debate when it was going on. What Ted Cruz was doing and all of us know it what he was introducing a poison pill amendment to try to kill the bill.

And here is the problem with a poison pill amendment. You don't go on the Senate floor and you don't try to sell it by saying, hey guys, I'm introducing an amendment to try to kill this bill. You go on there and you give a soliloquy you give an act base experience act and you pretend that you're helping the bill in order to kill it. That's what Barrack Obama did in 2008. It's what Ted Cruz did with the Gang of Eight bill.

[23:15:10] COOPER: Kevin, did anybody standout tonight? Do you think?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I thought Jeb Bush and Rand Paul. I mean, you know, I maybe announced here earlier that it was like the bully move from the neighborhood and everybody was freed to roam a block again. And I think Jeb Bush have his best debate tonight.

NAVARRO: Yeah..

MADDEN: And he is at eased. He seemed in command. It's largely because Donald Trump wasn't there and, you know, in his head. And I think Rand Paul, you know, if this Rand Paul had been through -- had showed up in so many of the other debates, he might have a better opportunity. But I will say about this just want to talk about his last exchange. I know this analogy has been before but I think we saw it play out on stage tonight.

It's like the end of the movie reservoir dogs. Everybody was pointing guns at each other. Everybody is airing charged counter charge the person who benefited from that the most for the purposes of whose going to be strategically positioned in Iowa was Donald Trump because he wasn't there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

COOPOER: I never got passed the ear cutting off to that solo.

BORGER: Can I just say it just gives you a sense of how much Trump has gotten into Jeb Bush's head.

COOPER: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

BORGER: He's totally in his head. And once he's gone, and I talked to Jeb Bush yesterday in Iowa and use the same line. Everybody has been in the witness protection program not willing to criticize, you know, Trump until recently Cruz but me. And with Trump off and use the line tonight with Trump off the stage, it was like he was liberated.

COOPER: You know, let's play that just for our viewers who didn't hear this. Listen what they're saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH: I kind of miss Donald Trump he was a little teddy bear to me. We always said such a loving relationship during his debates and in-between in the tweets, I kind of miss him I wish he was here. Everybody else who was in the witness protection program when I went I went after him on behalf of what the Republican cause should be. Conservative principles, believing in limited government, believing in accountability. Leading by fixing the things that are broken.

Look, I am in the establishment because my dad, the greatest man alive was president of the United States and my brother, who I adore as well as fantastic brother was president. Fine, I'll take it. I guess I'm part of the establishment because Barbara Bush is my mom. I'll take that too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: David?

AXELROD: Well, what I was going to asked you guys is, yes, it's true that he felt maybe more room to move without Trump hectoring him from a few left turns down. But how much of it also is that Jeb Bush senses where he is in this race.

BORGER: Yeah, very happy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.

AXELROD: And understands that he's probably not going to win. That it maybe over sooner rather than later and he feels liberated to be himself. I think there's an element of that as well.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: But listen, this was, you know, like I said before. This was a policy debate and policy it has will have. What you heard from Jeb Bush today was answer after answer. That was substantial. They had a lot of meat on the bones. He's answer of the veterans was very good.

His answer on ISIS ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.

NAVARRO: ... this was a debate where you could actually go, you know, into proposals. He can go into fact and ...

BASH: But Ana, you know, his had substantive debates before he had good. He was trilled after CNN debate because he got to talk the policy. He said it was policy. It was structure. That's, you know, made for me but the thing that was missing was every time he would say something, Donald Trump, you know, making faces. He's calling him low energy and, you know, being a bully.

NAVARRO: Yeah.

COOPER: Then.

BASH: And that's, there's no question at psychological warfare.

CARPENTER: He's Jeb Bush his biggest problem. He's gone after Trump. He didn't land a blow. Tonight, he went after Rubio. He didn't land a clean blow. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio cannot exist in the same presidential political universe because they need the same voters. And so, if Jeb Bush can't take that piece away from Rubio, Rubio is on the roll.

COOPER: Right.

CARPENTER: And I don't think he got that by tonight. Not ever.

COOPER: I do want to bring in Randi Kaye. She watch the debate with a group of voters. Some of them undecided at bar and grill in Des Moines. Randi, what have you been hearing tonight?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, many people has still have not made up their minds here in Des Moines, Iowa. We're at the American bar and grill here, the Legends American Bar and Grill with the group of young professionals, the young professional's connection. We watched the debate here with about 30 or so.

You see them there and I'm just going to give you an idea of what's some of them think. Josh (ph) you're still undecided, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's right.

KAYE: So, you heard that Jeb Bush state tonight that he kind of missed Donald Trump. He was a little bit of a teddy bear. He thought it and he kind of missed him at the debate. Did you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From a substantive perspective, no. But from the others ...

KAYE: So heard more tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. I think I did hear more about policy in what the candidates want to do when they're in the office and, you know, we missed the entertainment factor a little bit. But, I didn't feel like the debate was lacking in any ways.

KAYE: Are you any closer, who you leaning towards after tonight's debate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the debate is solidified the three candidates I'm leaning towards but as between those three candidates it really didn't change anything.

KAYE: And who are they?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio.

KAYE: All right. Thanks Josh (ph). You know the caucus is Monday. You got to make up your mind. OK. Patrick (ph) let me ask you, you actually like John Kasich didn't you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I am seeing much of him before and this debate, he was able to articulate some of his points. So, I'm considering him now and I wasn't previously but I'm still undecided.

[23:20:09] KAYE: All right. So, it's a new face for you in the crowd at least. Let me come over here and ask Abby (ph), you're also undecided. What do you think of tonight and did you miss Donald Trump at all?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't really missed Donald Trump only because I feel like he kind of takes the spotlight on the debates. And so, it's kind of refreshing to get a chance to hear the other candidates and helped to maybe make a more informed decision because I am undecided still.

KAYE: Did anyone breakthrough for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not really. I still need to do I think a little bit of research to kind of figure out who I'm with. They all make good points but none of them as a whole make a good choice.

KAYE: What's the issue the most important to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The economy I would say. Being a finance person, I have to say the economy and figuring stuff out.

KAYE: Let me ask Lora (ph) over here because I know that you tend to lean in the Republican, right? And now, you're going Democrat. That's a big deal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a big deal for me because I'm an entrepreneur. I was actually really disappointed that Donald Trump wasn't able to participate.

KAYE: That you just don't like any of the Republican fields?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. And I think for him not to be there, it really made me lean more towards Hillary Clinton and I'm thinking more on your experience as well. So that's really important to me to have someone who's had the experience to run the country.

KAYE: Thank you so much. So, a lot of folks are still trying to make up their minds. Some even thinking about switching parties Anderson as you heard there. Back to you.

COOPER: All right. Randi, thank you very much and thank them for participating. The candidates are now working the spin room. And yes, that is what they really call it. Let's check in what CNN Political reporter Sara Murray who's there right now with Rand Paul. Sarah?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are -- sorry they're having issue with live (inaudible). All right. So why do you think he showed too stayed in arrogance by not showing up tonight Senator Paul? Why do you think Donald -- what do you think the message of Donald Trump send to Iowa voters, last night by not showing?

PAUL: I think it was the best debate we've had. It was very substantive and I think it was a good number of people on the stage.

MURRAY: So what are you going to try to do in this last couple of days before the Iowa caucus to close the deal with voters who are undecided? Like you said, they break lane.

PAUL: You know, we think we have a really good chance with the young voters. You know, I'm the one candidate saying that the government shouldn't collect all your phone records or credit card statements. And so, we're excited about the debate performance. We think we did very well. Got to talk about criminal justice reform and how we expand the party by reforming our war on drugs. So we think it's a good night.

MURRAY: (inaudible) I'm sorry, we have a problem going live but Donald Trump showed destained by not showing up tonight. That's a pretty strong language.

PAUL: Yeah. I think it was disdainful and arrogant of him to think that he's too good show for the debate. In the end, about a third of Iowa voters have not yet made up their mind. And so, I think that they would like to see the candidates. I'm still here for them. So I think he missed an opportunity, you know, rich billionaire took his ball and went home. But I think it was a good debate for us and we're glad we present our issue..

MURRAY: What's the number one issue you want to come to mind to Iowa voters when they go into that into, you know, their caucus briefing on election night?

PAUL: That I'm the one physical conservative on the stage because I'm willing to hold the line on all the spending, the military spending as well as the domestic spending. The reason we're bankrupt as a party or as a country is that both parties have been has been raising and spending. Republicans have wanted to increase military spending. The Democrats have wanted to increase the domestic spending. The problem is that both gotten together and bankrupt to the country. I'm the one person that would do the opposite. I'll hold the line on all spending.

MURRAY: Senator Paul, thanks very much to your patience. We appreciate it.

Anderson, you heard that there. He said Donald Trump is disdainful of Iowa voters for not showing up tonight. Clearly they were very happy to have the stage for themselves.

COOPER: Yeah. Sara Murray thanks very much. We'll continue checking with you throughout the next two hours in the spin room. Also, highlight from the Trump event and the objections from some veteran groups that he's using them as political props, more on that ahead.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

[23:26:54] COOPER: It is been really interesting a night debate night in Iowa. And for the Republican front runner Donald Trump it is boycott the debate night. He told our Brianna Keiler that Fox News had apologized to him. He said have liked to have gone to the debate but it was too late. He was already committed to this own rally tonight for veterans. Here are some of the key moments from that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We had about 24 hours to put this together. It was very, very quick and we hear for some very special people and we're going to hear from some of them but this is an honor. This is a really honor and I didn't want to be here. I have to be honest. I wanted to be about five minutes away and I've enjoyed that. I've enjoyed that of all the online post that have done very well with that with the debates and I had a kick with it, but you have to stick up to your rights.

When you treated badly, you have to stick up to your rights. You have to do it and I have to go a little step further to say to say that Fox has been extremely nice and the last number of hours actually. And they've wanted me there and they said, "How about now?" They called a few minutes ago, "How about now? Can you come over?" And I said, "I already started." And you know what, I don't know. Is it for me personally a good thing, a bad thing? Will I get more votes? Will I get less votes?

Nobody knows. Who the hell knows? But it's for our Vets and you're going to like it because we raise over $5 million in one day. Over $5 million. Donald Trump, another great builder in New York and now a politician. I can't stand this. I'm a politician. I don't want to be called the politician all talk and no action. I refuse to be called a politician. Donald Trump gave $1 million, OK?

And I was in Iowa in a different location. We have 4,000 people. And I went to those people, I said, "Listen, I don't feel good about turning down money because my whole life I've been greedy, greedy greedy. I tripped all the money I did get. I'm so greedy but now I want to be greedy for the United States. I want to grab all that money. I'm going to be greedy for the United States."

I mean, if you look at a guy like Jeb Bush, he's taking 100 of low energy. He's taking 120 extremely low or I shouldn't say this, he's debating right now. Maybe he's doing great. He's probably looking for me. He say "Has anyone seen Trump?" Where is Trump? Where is he?

RICK SANTORUM: Not to be offense about standing a little bit over here so I'm not photographed with the Trump sign. I'm supporting another candidate for president. That doesn't mean we can't work together when it comes to helping our veterans and that's what Mike and I are here do it tonight.

MIKE HUCKABEE: Look, let me very clear. Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, and I maybe competitors in a presidential raise but tonight we are colleague in unison standing here for the people who let us breath with every breath of free air we breath. The veterans of the United States of America.

[23:30:01] TRUMP: The sign was just given. We just cracked $6 million, right? $6 million. And we have outside a list of the organizations and the folks that are going to be getting this money. We're going to divide it up and they're going to get a lot of money. Everybody's going to get a lot of money.

And Ivanka is going to have a baby in two weeks. In fact, we have a hospital all lined up. And you know what, I'm doing great. I love the people of Iowa. But I said, Ivanka, it would be so great if you had your baby in Iowa.

It would be so great. I definitely win. Stand up honey, say hello. Say hello. I want that to happen. I want that to happen so badly. An amazing evening, you veterans are incredible people. Brave beyond comprehension. And I just want to -- and behalf of everybody in this country, in Iowa, but in this country, I want to thank you for the job you do.

Because without you, we would not be here tonight. Thank you all very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And as he referenced there, the Trump campaign has just put out statements. And they raise more than $6 million. Tonight, I want to quickly go to our Sunlen Serfaty who was at the event.

Sunlen, how are people there on the ground reacting to everything that has gone on into the event tonight and also to the debate that Trump wasn't at?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have to say, Anderson, it was like a party out here earlier today as people lined up for hours waiting to get in. 700 people inside, about a 150 people stayed here in the cold, outside watching on some monitors. And I do think there was a celebration in sort of this way that Donald Trump decided to boycott the debate.

A lot of people here, telling me that they appreciated that, they thought that he was bold. And that's one of the reasons why they're supporting him. But inside the event it's interesting, Donald Trump really taking pain at seeing to turn this into a non traditional Donald Trump event, very careful to keep the focus right on veterans, the topic of this event.

At one point, Donald Trump went off stage when he sat (inaudible) as some veterans like he invited up to speak, spoke. So it's clearly, not a typical Trump event. He did not launch into any broad attacks on being candidate.

He had a side swipe at Jeb Bush but that was really impassive. You could tell he wanted to be very restrained tonight. And in his remarks, talks a lot about veterans.

And made multiple references to the eloquent in the room. The fact that while he's here, just a few miles away, 2.5 miles away, the debate was going on, he said I wanted to be there.

But really defended himself saying that when someone attacks you, when you're treating unfairly, that you have to defend yourself. And people in the audience really responded, that if everyone knew what he was talking about, you got a big round of applause for that one. Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, thank you very much. Donald Trump had made some statements about conversations that he said he had repeated conversation with Fox News. He said he's been getting a lot of calls for them.

Fox News actually put up statement in response to what Donald Trump said. I want to put it on the screen to let our viewers know.

The Fox News statement said, Roger Ailes had three brief conversations with Donald Trump today about possibly appearing at the debate, there were not multiple calls placed by Ailes to Trump.

Statement went to say, in the course of those conversations, we acknowledged his concerns about a satirical observation we made in order to quell the attacks on Megyn Kelly.

Goes on to say, and prevent here from being smeared any further. Furthermore, Trump offered to appear at the debate upon the condition that Fox News contributed $5 million to his charities. We explained that was not possible and we could not engage in a quid pro quo, nor could any money change hands for any reason in the last 48 hours. We've kept two issues at the forefront. We would never compromise our journalistic standards and we would always stand by our journalist, Megyn Kelly.

They go on to say, we have accomplished those two goals and we are pleased with the outcome. We're very proud to have her on stage as a debate moderator alongside Bret Baier and Chris Wallace.

You know, obviously, Donald Trump would like to Trump at ratings tomorrow to be able to say, look how great my event is versus the Fox News debate. That remains to be seen, of course.

I guess no matter what Trump though can say, well, this was successful. We raise more than $6 million.

KING: Say it's, I raise money for veterans, criticize me, right? It's hard to do that. They will be, you know, look, he's -- whether or not he should have been at the debate, will be debated and criticize.

Some people say yes, some people say no. We'll find out Monday night. But from there campaign perspective, A, he's a stubborn guy and he hit a war wheel in a war of words with Fox News. But B, I think tactically, it wasn't just that. I think tactically, they think they got their cast their votes. And if they can turn it out, they can win in Iowa.

And so, why risk that by standing there tonight knowing that he was going to command the sustained and repeated attack from everybody. But principally, Ted Cruz, who understands that they are in this struggle right now and the thing that frustrates the Cruz campaign get a private meeting with the pastors that are helping him, urging them to do more, to peel away evangelical conservatives.

[23:35:01] That the pastor's networking and Cruz seemed suffer just apoplectic because they think based on Donald Trump's past words, they cannot understand why he's cutting into a such a big slice of the biggest piece of caucus night electorate. Why evangelical Christians?

COOPER: And yet Cruz endorsement from Jerry Falwell Jr. for Donald Trump by surprise, a lot of people obviously Glenn Beck has endorsed Ted Cruz.

BORGER: So, Cruz has a target on his back tonight though. And I'm not sure he weathered it all that well. I think, you know, when this fight with Rubio over authenticity, I don't think he did particularly well, particularly when you see these videos.

And you saw what it would look like without Donald Trump there. The thing I will say, though, is that we did get to look at Rubio pretty closely tonight. And he seemed, to me, somehow to be quite intense for this kind of debate environment.

You know, everybody here is heard a stump speeches and all the rest and he kind of seems to recite them and just comes across as a little too intense for the format, it seems to me. And I'm not sure it helped him that much either.

NAVARRO: Something I notice about Marco. And I agree with you, that he's very intense. But that's his personality. Marco is a guy that has got a lot of nervous energy. You sit next to him, he's always, you know fidgeting, his leg is going up and down.

That's just who he is. But you know, he's not only trying to take votes from Jeb Bush, he's also squarely going after the evangelical votes.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

NAVARRO: It was, you know, it was all he could do but start speaking in tongues, today. You know, when he got asked a question savior. He turn into safe question. He got asked a question about his attacks on Chris Christie.

And all of a sudden, it turns into a, you know, beautifully rehearsed poetic answer on faith. So, he wants, you know, he was laser focused on that evangelical vote. And he's trying to step away at that.

AXELROD: But he's a moving up in Iowa. And he's got his sights on Ted Cruz. And that was very clear in this debate. I agree with you that he seemed a little over caffeinated at times, and particularly at the beginning of a debate ..

UNKNOWN FEMALE: Come on David, have you ever had a cup of Cuban coffee in the office? Or you know. AXLEROD: I'm a tea drinker.

CARPENTER: I don't think anything is fundamentally changed by this debate, but what we're all missing right now is, what Donald Trump's closing argument is to Iowans throughout this race. He has not defined clearly what kind of Republican he is. I do think there's been in this opportunity by the other candidate to clearly define him. But his parting shot to Iowans is him sitting in a plane all by himself complaining about how someone treated him unfairly and picking a fight with another rich and powerful Republican.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But Amanda the problem is ...

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: He's argument and it's a poor one.

COOPER: OK, Jeff.

LORD: Yeah, I know. I don't think so. I mean, I think probably argument was the one we just saw. And you know, what he did tonight and what he has done repeatedly throughout the campaign is get across the new message that he is a strong guy, that he is a confident guy. And that the other guys are neither.

CARPENTER: Yeah. But my complaint is always about him. He never makes it bigger for what the country.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: But it's about him in nine months. And he's been leading for nine months. This guy has spent one night in Iowa in this entire campaign. So the point where it made headlines the other night when he left out wherever Hilton Garden in or ...

BASH: But you guys are all drifting into the reality that we have all grown up in - have in our DNA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And keep reality (inaudible).

BASH: Yeah, and they'll covering and understanding and learning about politics and the ebbs and flows of -- Throw it out. I mean, it's like it should be in the garbage can right now because it doesn't, I mean, and I'm saying this to somebody who, you know, maybe before him said well, you know, I still have say that conservative Iowans are going to kind of go back to their roots.

But when it comes to the -- what you expect -- the expectations of Donald Trump ....

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: He made posing argument is who is.

UNKNOWN FEMALE: ... he asking about abortion. He doesn't ... AXELROD: So that he -- but that how he change the American politics. He's running to the Republican nomination. And you got to his speeches and he hardly ever, if ever, uses the word Republican.

He's running for president.

COOPER: And people feel like.

KING: He skipped it. He's almost trying to skip the primary ...

COOPER: And regardless where he is on issues, people feel they know who he is, beyond more than anybody else.

AXELROD: We saw the image of him in the plane. But we also saw the image of him in front of a very large crowd with people out in the street. I mean, Santorum and Huckabee didn't show up to show their respect either for veterans or for Trump.

That was the largest crowd they've spoken ...

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: Nobody on that stage tonight is highly logically pure on the consistency issue. We saw videos that proved that neither, you know, that both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have changed their minds.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: It's not about ideological purity and Donald Trump is not winning because he's making the case that he's a better Republican than to anybody. He's making a case that he understands people's anxieties and fears prior than anybody.

(CROSSTALK)

[23:40:08] MADDEN: As far as the tactical part of him skipping the debate tonight, he is going to get exactly the headlines that he wanted tomorrow.

UNKNOWN FEMALE: Yes.

UNKNOWN MALE: Yes, he is.

MADDEN: He's going to get exactly the sound bites that he wanted spreading over and over. And the other thing is like Bruce has a lot of really good debates.

He picked the worst night to have one of his bad ones.

BORGER: Right, exactly.

UNKNOWN MALE: That's going to be a problem for him.

BORGER: Can I just say something to Dana's point about this whole notion of how we grew up covering retail politics, right. And you have to go door to door. KING: If we also grew up for Republicans primaries and about lower taxes and smaller government, it's not.

BORGER: Exactly. But Donald Trump, this isn't retail, this is network politics. This is whole sale but whatever you want to call it, that everything we grew up thinking that you had to go door to door in Iowa.

You had to go door to door in New Hampshire. You had to meet people one on one. As you point out Ana he hasn't he spent what? One night in the state of Iowa. But that's not what people's like.

COOPER: So does anybody here at any of these tables think they know what is going to happen on the night of the caucuses in Iowa.

BORGER: Turnout.

KING It depends on turnout. It's one of two things. And David and Kevin have both been through this in Iowa. In the sense that most of the campaigns in Iowa, they think, OK, Mike Huckabee won with 40,000 votes.

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum says they tied last time around 30,000 votes. The traditional caucus audience for the Republican side is about 120,000 people.

If a 120 or 130 or even a 140,000 people show up, Ted Cruz will probably win because he has the best organization on the ground, the network of the home floors in evangelical. I think they can turn out 30,000 people.

I said I don't need that target, but it turnout 20,000 in Cruz's gets Tea Party votes, he's there. If you see - if we give a turnout figure that's above 150 and starting to approach to 170, then Donald Trump is going to win Iowa.

Because that means all these new people came out. I spent, when I was out there last week, talked to all these Clinton people from 2008. Campaigns for caucuses thinking that you (inaudible) a target, you're almost not worried about the other guy.

How many voters do I need if I want first? How many voters do I need if I want second? The Clinton people in 2008 thought they exceeded their target. The local precincts, they would say, we thought we need 50.

AXELROD: They probably did.

KING: Yeah, without 50. And they said they would march into these gyms with 75 people thinking, yes, we beat our target. And then they'd look up and see a 120 Obama people and say, holy ...

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: One point we have to make though is the Republican process is a little less cumbersome than the Democratic process. It is easier to participate in the Republican process. It's a shorter process.

BASH: And it's a secret ballot.

AXELROD: And it's a secret ballot, you don't stand and declare yourself or your neighbors.

There's not bartering in the way there is in the Democratic caucuses. And so, it's an easier thing for Donald Trump and say Bernie Sanders to bring out this extra vote. And you know, you talked to people out there, and I think he's doing more organizing than people realize.

I do think he is making the calls, telling people where their caucus.

KING: At every rally, the give the people the registration form so you either register vote for the first time or change the registration if you're Democrat. And you have to change if you're a Republican.

They're trying to give them at the rally so they don't have to wait line in caucus night. You can just show your I.D.

LORD: One of thing here would ..

BORGER: How about in registrations you're up a bit, but they're not up hugely now. Of course, people can walk in and decide ...

AXELROD: And their registration. Yeah.

BORGER: ... to participate in Republican caucus. But you'd think if you had all these people who are really passionate ...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're not thinking in partisan term.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: Organization matter is us. So it absolutely makes a difference. But as I remember too well in 2008, we had our contact university as well. We had the exact number that we thought we're going to need to win.

We lost to Mike Huckabee, why? If you look at -- we go back and I revisit that last week, Mike Huckabee had a lot of momentum. He had a lot of the better buzz towards that in that last week. And that could the big difference maker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he also had.

COOPER: Who do you think has buzz now. I mean doesn't continue to be Donald Trump.

MADDEN: Donald Trump has done an amazing job of blocking out the source for all the other candidates right now. He is driven that the news coverage in Iowa exactly the way he has wanted to in this last week.

And again, while Ted Cruz has had a lot of really good debates, he didn't have his best one tonight. And so, his closing message I think he's getting Trump by Donald Trump.

LORD: When you talk about these evangelicals, as you were saying, and it describing the Cruz people nuts. This because I think, as we're talking here, these folks are not cardboard cutouts.

They got mortgages. They've got kids to educate. There's more to evangelicals than just going to church and the bible. If they wanted an evangelical president, they had one.

COOPER: Well, it's the same here Jerry Falwell Jr. tonight on CNN saying, I think it was Erin Burnett saying, look, I'm not looking to vote for the pastor in chief, I'm looking to vote for the person ...

LORD: Exactly.

BASH: But it wasn't that long ago, I was out with Huckabee, you know, 24/7 back in 2008. And it wasn't just that he had momentum, he had momentum in large perp because he has party purity especially on the issues that matter to evangelicals. You've remembered Kevin because you were there.

Mitt Romeny did. I mean, to think about what he was called flip flopper especially on abortion. Think about him compared to journey that ....

(CROSSTALK)

[23:45:09] COOPER: Jeff we just to get quick break. We'll continue the discussion. We'll pick up the conversation when we come back, more from candidates who debated as well as Donald Trump himself, with full night ahead.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Final debate for the Iowa caucuses now in the book, so Donald Trump's first debate boycott, he missed the chance to unload on his rivals from the neighboring podium. He also missed highlights like this, Rand Paul being asked where the Bill Clinton's extra curricular activities while president are a fair game now.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have suggested that former President Bill Clinton's history with women is fair game in this campaign. How do you answer those who say you don't hold the sins of the husband against the wife?

PAUL: You know, I've never really brought this up unless ask a question, but I have responded to the question.

I don't blame Hillary Clinton at all for this. I don't think she's responsible for his behavior. But I do think that her position as promoting women's rights and fairness to women in the workplace, that if what Bill Clinton did, any CEO in our country did with an intern, with a 22-year-old, 21-year-old intern in their office, they would be fired. They would never be hired again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Joining us now is RNC Chief Strategist and Communications Director, Sean Spicer.

Sean, good to have you on the program. How did you think it went?

SEAN SPICER, RNC, CHIEF STRATEGIST & COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I thought it was a great debate. It was very substantive issue focus. I think the candidates each had an opportunity to kind of get out their vision, talk about what they believed in. And I really think there was a robust discussion. I think Iowa voters came away with a much more informed idea of which one of these candidates could best represent them.

COOPER: How do you think it compared to other debates for, obviously, where Donald Trump was?

[23:50:02] I mean, did you have -- what impact do you think or not being done (ph) from the president's hat?

SPICER: Yeah, I think that's a great question. And I think each campaign, and I'm not trying to bust the question or something, but I think that that's a free campaign. I think some of them probably found the ability to go back and forth a little bit easier. Some of that was because there were fewer candidates on stage. Some of it is because they were able to jab at different people in different ways.

But every time when you remove one element from a debate stage, whether it's fewer people or any particular candidate, that's going to frankly change the overall dynamic of the debate.

BORGER: Hey Sean, it's Gloria.

Don't you think that the questions tonight, though, about Muslims and about veterans show in many ways how Donald Trump was still -- even though he wasn't on the stage, was kind of dominating the debate even in his absence?

SPICER: I don't know. I mean, I think that that's -- look, they were all -- whether or not -- I mean, but that's -- I mean, it's like he's still in the race. It's not like he dropped out. He wasn't (inaudible).

BORGER: Right.

SPICER: And so you can't ignore that just because he's not here, that he's not a factor. I mean, so I think it's an interesting question but just because someone chooses not to be on the debate stage doesn't mean that they're not a relevant part of the process in the conversation.

BORGER: What would you do if he just -- if he decided, "OK, I'm not going to participate in the next debate in New Hampshire." Is that OK with the RNC?

SPICER: Well, it's OK in the sense that we don't have a rule saying, "You must do anything." But I think it's -- it would be unfortunate. And as I said all day today, I would have like to have him here. I think it's better for the process. It's better for the party. It's better for the voters to have all of the candidates go through this process.

I think we, at the RNC, have been very proud of the debate process. A process that has been unprecedented in terms of being able to have this two-part debates where we allow all of these amazing candidates an opportunity to get out there and speak.

And so, when we see any candidate not take advantage of that, it's disappointing. But, it's up to each campaign to make that decision.

I would hope that he want to be part of the next five debates. But again, whether it's him or anybody else, it's ultimately going to be every candidate's decision. What part of the process to engage, which to be part of, whether to debate or an event or what have you.

But, from a party standpoint, we've worked very hard to craft these debates. We're very proud of the schedule and what we've done to give each of these candidates an opportunity to express their vision for America. And we love them all to be part of it.

KING: Sean, it's John King. I'm wondering if you had any conversation with the chairman yet about Tuesday morning? And deciding whether a private phone call from him. You don't have to name names if you want. But does he have a line in which would he think that after Iowa, maybe the field should shrink?

SPICER: Oh, that's not up to us at all. This is up to voters and to the campaigns.

So every campaign is going to make a decision based on the resources and support they have whether or not they want to continue how long they want to continue.

But the last thing anybody in this process wants is the RNC getting involved in telling (ph) the campaign to get in, get out or, you know, for how long. That's highly inappropriate.

COOPER: Sean, I think you're going to have a good night sleep tonight. I'm sure you had a couple of rough days the last couple of days. I appreciate you being on. I hope you maybe have some wine or something.

RNC Chief Strategist and Communications Director, Sean Spicer. Thanks, Sean. Thank you very much. A lot ahead tonight, we are on all through the next hour here. We're

going to go back to our panel right now. I mean, obvious -- well, we're going to take a short break, I guess, OK. And then we'll do.

OK, I got three people talking in my ears.

So, I mean, obviously for the RNC, this has been a very trying (ph) couple of days. I mean, Sean is obviously trying to put a good face on things. But, I mean, the stress has got to be enormous.

KING: And you're sort of involved but you're not in a way that the RNC is supposed to be. It has sponsored the debate and the party organizations are not as strong as they used to be. I asked that question, the chairman's not going to stop, until anybody (ph) get out there, but there going to be a whole lot of conversations among the Republican establishment, including people at the RNC, Tuesday morning about who should go. And if people don't go who they think should go, people will try to send them backdoor messages.

But for the debate that they sponsored the debate, but do you think Reince Priebus or Sean Spicer who were trying to do the best job they can, so you'll going to get the middle (inaudible) about Donald Trump? Good luck for that.

BASH: That's exactly what I was thinking. The only thing that would have been worse for them, the ultimate thing whether it'd been if Donald Trump or hitting the RNC, which is done before, remember, before they sort of kiss and made up.

So, you know, you don't definitely don't want to be in this line of fire and it is entirely possible that they will be at some point.

AXELROD: Well, you have this situation, Sean Spicer is part of the Washington political establishment. You have Ted Cruz on that stage, essentially reveling in the fact that Washington Republican ...

BASH: Hate him.

AXELROD: ...detest him.

And in fact, you've seen the establishment Republicans in Iowa, including Senator Grassley tempt -- sort of embraced Donald Trump at least for now.

[23:55:08] Clearly trying to push him over the finish line and kill the Cruz candidacy there. And yet, you know, Sean, poor Sean has to be the impartial umpire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Between ...

BORGER: Well, you know, there's a civil war in the party, right? And he's trying to navigate it as best as he can. I mean, Democrats are usually the ones who have the circular firing squad, not the Republicans but they're acting like a bunch of Democrats this time around.

And he's got that (ph) with love, by the way.

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: I've got a few stars, really.

BORGER: But, he's -- it's a tough job. This isn't exactly what they had planned at the outset after they ...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Is that what anybody had planned ...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I don't think Hillary Clinton is expecting to be losing to a socialist (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, yeah, sure.

LORD: And asking for another debate between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump in most of these polls, you've got over -- well over 50 percent.

And what this means, among other things, is that there's such a revolution in this civil war that's coming from the bottom. And it's not interestingly, because at the beginning, we all thought that, well, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson as the outsiders, well, they sort of dropped off.

But there's no real surge for any of these other guys, the establishment, there is no wheels ...

COOPER: Right. And the clock is ticking. Everyone stick around, there's a lot more to talk about just ahead, more highlights from tonight's Republican debate in Iowa, the first Republican debate without Donald Trump. His rivals made a lot of claims, we'll show you (inaudible) from the Fox.

Plus, Brianna Keilar's exclusive interview with Donald Trump just before the debate began.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. Just a little bit before midnight, the Iowa caucus is now just a bit more than three days away. And normally, when there's a debate so soon before people vote, every candidate treats it like it's a matter of political life and death.

[00:00:03] Tonight, in Des Moines, every candidate did, except Donald Trump. So in the hour ahead, we're going to talk about his competing event, his feud with Fox News, how that shaped the debate tonight and how all of it might shape the outcome on Monday.

First, a quick look at some key moments from the --