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Without Donald Trump, 12.5 million tuned into GOP debate

Welcome to Trail Guide, your host through the wilds of the 2016 presidential campaign. It’s Friday, Jan. 29, and here’s what we’re talking about:

  • Donald Trump’s decision not to debate might have been a triumph nonetheless, The Times’ Cathleen Decker writes
  • Without Trump onstage, the rest of the top-tier field attacked one another on immigration and terrorism
  • The debate drew 12.5 million viewers, a big decline, but still much more than in previous years
  • Our takeaways: Trump was mostly a target for jokes, and the immigration debate was especially heated
  • In Iowa, Bernie Sanders harnesses energy to turn into votes — Obama style
  • Hillary Clinton says Sanders’ health plan is something that will “never happen”