The absence of Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump at Thursday night's GOP debate made for a less controversial forum as the remaining candidates hoped for some additional time to voice their platforms.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie joined Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for the primetime debate as they gear up for the upcoming Iowa caucuses.

Without Trump on the stage, the debate was less confrontational and almost seemed a bit flat at times compared to previous gatherings.

Early on, while Cruz and Rubio portrayed themselves as tough pro-military leaders who would hunt down and destroy ISIS, Christie tried to appeal to voters as a man of principal who gets things done. Criticizing President Barack Obama and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, he said he’s been held accountable and he’s been able to work with Democrats in the Garden State to push conservative ideals and principals and accomplish things in a bipartisan fashion.

On the issue of domestic security, Christie was asked about the recent shooting spree in California, and whether neighbors of the killers should have reported them to police because they had seen suspicious behavior, but didn’t because they were concerned they might be perceived as engaging in racial profiling.

Christie said people should use common sense.

“And the fact is, let law enforcement make those decisions. I told people that from the time I was U.S. Attorney 13 years ago. It’s not for them to make those decisions about whether or not something is legal or illegal, or profiling or not," he said. "You seen something that is suspicious, you call law enforcement and let law enforcement make those decisions.”

He also said Obama and Hillary Clinton have "made law enforcement the enemy."

"They are not supporting our law enforcement officers, it is making everybody nervous to get out of their cars if you are a law enforcement officer. As president I will support law enforcement and we will stop radical terrorist attacks,” Christie said.

Several times during the debate, instead of going after his fellow republicans, Christie attacked Hillary Clinton - a tactic he's used in the past.

When asked about wasteful spending on the federal level, Christie said Planned Parenthood was an excellent example, and he promised to get rid of funding for Planned Parent, while stressing his pro-life beliefs.

When Cruz and Rubio began arguing about whether they had changed their positions on the illegal immigration issue, Christie jumped in and said “the fact is this is what makes a difference when you are a governor. You can change your mind. Ted can change his mind. Marco can change his mind. It is perfectly legal in this country to change your mind. But when you are a governor, you have to admit it. You can't hide behind parliamentary tricks. That is the difference and that is the kind of leader we need in the White House. Stop the Washington bull and let's get things done.”

When asked if the GOP could take a chance and nominate Christie as their presidential candidate with the Bridgegate case still unresolved in federal court, Christie said yes, because three separate investigations have cleared him of any involvement in the matter, and he had immediately fired the people we know were involved, which is what you expect from a leader.

In the late stages of the debate, Christie said as commander in chief he would bring our allies together to hunt down and destroy ISIS.

“The radical Islamic jihadists, what they want to do is impose their faith upon each and every one of us. Every one of us. And the reason why this war against them is so important is that very basis of religious liberty. They want everyone in this country to follow their religious beliefs the way they do," Christie said. "They do not want us to exercise religious liberty. That is why as commander-in-chief, I will take on ISIS, not only because it keeps us safe, but because it allows us to absolutely conduct our religious affairs the way we find in our heart and in our souls. As a Catholic, that is what I want to do, and no matter what your faith is, that is what I want you to be able to do.”

In his closing remarks, Christie said he had experienced the 9/11 terror attacks first hand, not knowing for hours if his wife was safe.

“Terrorism in this country scares everyone, and the fact is we need a commander in chief who not only understands how to protect us, but feels in here what it means to face the possibility of loss," Christie said. "I’ve faced it, I’ve prosecuted terrorists, I have made the decisions that need to be made as a governor to protect us, and as President of the United States, no one will keep this country safer than I will.”

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