How Trump Skipped the Debate and Controlled the Conversation

What if the GOP threw a presidential candidates' debate, and the front-runner didn't show up — and yet dominated the conversation anyway?

That seems to be what happened Thursday night. A Google Trends report released several minutes before Thursday's debate began revealed that front-runner Donald Trump was the most-searched Republican primary contender across the country.

Trump's boycott of the debate has dominated this week's news amid a heated feud between him and Fox News host and moderator Megyn Kelly.

Donald Trump and Megyn Kelly

It has been discussed ad nauseam whether Trump's boycott of the last debate before the Iowa caucus, an unprecedented political move, was a strategically wise one.

But early indications are that Trump made the right call — even though rival candidate and former Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Trump's absence was a sign that he was "unwilling to defend his record" to the people of Iowa.

Trump held a campaign event and rally for war veterans in the same timeslot as the GOP debate, which has attracted considerable media coverage, suggesting that he has out-maneuvered his GOP rivals while avoiding Kelly, FOX and burnishing his persona as an uncompromising party outsider.

The debate opened with a question from moderator Kelly asking Cruz to address Trump, "the elephant not in the room." Cruz briefly went into his soured relationship with Trump and quickly went on to express his gratitude to the people of Iowa.

Cruz then said he has visited all of the state's 99 counties and implied that Trump's debate no-show is a gesture of disrespect.

RELATED: Fox News: Trump Wanted Money to Appear at Thursday Debate