DES MOINES -- The chief spokesman for Sen. Ted Cruz said that Thursday's Republican debate was more presidential due to the absence of Donald Trump.

"I thought it made the debate more presidential, dealt with more serious issues," Rick Tyler, the communications director for Cruz's campaign, said following the debate.

Trump, who leads the race nationally and in the most recent polls of early primary states including Iowa, bailed out of the final GOP debate ahead of Monday's caucuses after a war of words with Fox News and co-moderator Megyn Kelly. Instead, he held a nearby event which he said raised $6 million for veterans.

Going into the debate, Cruz attacked Trump as "Ducking Donald" for skipping the debate, and challenged Trump to a one-on-one faceoff. At the outset of the debate, Kelly asked Cruz to confront the "elephant in the room," referring to Trump.

"I'm a maniac. And everybody on this stage is stupid, fat, and ugly. And Ben [Carson], you're a terrible surgeon. Now that we've gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way..." Cruz joked.

In Trumps's absence, the candidates addressed national security, immigration, ethanol subsidies, and healthcare, among other issues.