For the sixth Republican Party debate of the 2016 election cycle, a whittled down group of seven GOP candidates vying for the presidency met on the stage in North Charleston, S.C. Thursday night for a nationally televised debate that was aired on Fox Business Channel.
Thursday's debate was the second-to-last opportunity for candidates to sway voters before the Iowa caucus on Feb. 1.
Whenever the opportunity was given, which was quite frequent, the seven candidates took shots at President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had some of the sharpest attacks on Clinton. He vowed not to let Clinton within "10 miles of the White House" if he is nominated by the GOP.
Missing from the stage was Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina. Fiorina joined Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum for the earlier undercard debate. Paul opted to sit out the undercard debate, but his supporters were not completely absent as they shouted, "We want Rand" at one point late in the primetime debate.
Senator Ted Cruz came under the most scrutiny as he was questioned about his eligibility for the office, a loan that was used to fund a prior senate campaign and his remarks on Donald Trump having "New York values."
"Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan. I'm just saying," Cruz said.
Trump earned applause from the audience and Cruz for his reply, invoking the emotion of the city's response following the 9/11 attacks on New York City.
"That was a very insulting statement that Ted made," Trump said.
Trump and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sparred over immigration policy. Trump was steadfast in wanting to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States. Bush blasted Trump for his stance.
"There is a better way. We have to lead. You cannot make these rash statements," Bush said.
Clinton is currently leading national polling on the Democratic side, but her once commanding lead has shrunk in recent weeks to Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich welcomed Sanders' rise in the polls.
"We're going to win every state" if Sanders is the nominee, Kasich said.
As Clinton's lead dwindles, Trump's lead continues to rise. His lead in a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that was released Thursday soared to 13 percent over Cruz.
As the possibility of a Trump presidency is increasing, Trump was asked what he would do with his real estate empire. Trump said he could care less about his companies, and would hand off duties to his family.
"If I become president, I couldn't care less about my company. It's peanuts," Trump said.
Trump’s success on stage is still stunning to established political junkies.
"It has been a surprise for political scientists. If you asked us six months ago who the nominee will be, we would have told you I would be somebody like Jeb Bush," said University of Denver political scientist Peter Hanson.
Hanson says keep a close eye the political landscape after the Iowa caucuses. It may be the time when some of the lower polling candidates drop out, hoping their supporters will back someone else, other than Trump.
"They are spread out among the other candidates and that if another contender emerges we could see a real challenger to Trump, but that just hasn't happened yet."
Many of the same candidates will meet in two weeks for the final GOP debate before the Iowa caucus.
Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs.