ABC's GOP debate takes TV ratings crown

Sun Dec 11, 2011 10:56pm EST

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LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - Score one for ABC News in the ratings department.

Saturday night's GOP debate was the most-watched of the 2012 campaign as an average of 7.6 million viewers tuned in to watch the presidential candidates take on such hot topics as unemployment and immigration.

Despite a relatively late start time -- 9 p.m. on the East Coast -- 2.1 million of those viewers were in the key adults 25-54 viewer group.

Both of those numbers beat the previous highs, held by Fox News in total viewers (6.11 million on September 22) and MSNBC in the 25-54 demographic (1.73 million on September 7).

They were also well ahead of the numbers for the only other debate on one of the major broadcast networks, CBS News' telecast on Nov 12.

Moderated by Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos, the ABC debate was broadcast live from Des Moines, Iowa, with the Iowa caucus -- the first tally of the election season -- less than a month away.

Between the two current front-runners -- Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich -- Gingrich was seen as the winner of the contest, which was also hosted by Yahoo News, the Republican Party of Iowa and the Des Moines Register.

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