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WATCH: Trump-less GOP Forum Serves as Debate Preview

WATCH: Trump-less GOP Forum Serves as Debate Preview


Rachel Maddow breaks down the Voters First Forum event, seen as a peaceful precursor to the much-anticipated Republican presidential debate.

As political followers eagerly await Thursday's Fox News debate in Cleveland -- viewed as a possible sideshow starring leading Republican candidate Donald Trump -- they enjoyed a prelude with the Voters First Forum in New Hampshire.

The Monday event, sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader, featured 11 GOP candidates in person and three via satellite. On her MSNBC show, Rachel Maddow described the forum as mostly a bust, with candidates quickly pushed onto and then shoved off the stage. The audience could not interact with the candidates and was not allowed to applaud or boo. The event was sparsely attended, with many empty seats in the venue.

U.S. senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina may have made the biggest impression in his short time onstage.

"And as to Hillary Clinton, the last person in the world you want to send into the ring of the Russians is Hillary Clinton," he said. "As to the Clintons, I've been dealing with this crowd for 20 years. I'm fluent in Clinton-speak. Do you want me to translate? When Bill says 'I didn't have sex with that woman,' he did. When she says 'I'll tell you about building the pipeline when I become president,' she won't."

Notable absences at the Voters First Forum included antigay former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and businessman Donald Trump, who leads the Republican field, according to polls. Trump will participate in Thursday's event, though.

Watch Maddow's report below:

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