(NEWSER)  – Seven Republican candidates got a chance to debate without Donald Trump present on Thursday night—though the man Megyn Kelly referred to as "the elephant not in the room" still dominated media coverage, causing some to declare him the winner. Here's what the pundits are saying about people who were actually present:

  • Jeb Bush: Bush had a great night, most analysts agree, highlighting how different the GOP race might be with no Donald. He was "more relaxed and more forceful" and "looked positively presidential" without Trump bullying him, writes Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post. He bested Marco Rubio in an exchange on immigration and got in a few jabs at Hillary Clinton—and Trump.
  • Marco Rubio: This wasn't Rubio's greatest debate, "but he had a better night than Cruz, which is strategically important for him," writes Niall Stanage at the Hill. He did, however, struggle when the debate turned to immigration reform. 
  • Rand Paul: After missing the last debate, Paul was another candidate to thrive in a Trump-less environment, and he proved to be "willing and able to speak to issues his party has struggled to address in recent years," writes Chris Cillizza at the Post, who notes that while it's far too late for his campaign, "at least he had a moment."

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