Republican Debate Beats Trump Rally in Ratings Battle

Updated: Jan 29, 2016 5:30 PM ET

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump hosted a rally for veterans instead of attending Thursday night's debate—but more people tuned in to watch the debate than to watch the Donald, according to ratings data.

More than 12.4 million people turned their televisions to Fox News to watch the debate, according to analyst Nielsen. Though viewership is down compared to most earlier debates, Fox got more eyeballs than the two networks that carried the Trump rally combined: the two networks, CNN and MSNBC, reportedly earned about a quarter of the ratings Fox did, according to CNN.

It's impossible to say whether Trump's presence would have boosted the debate ratings, but the candidate was not in two minds about it:

The debate was once again dominated Thursday night television, beating out all other broadcasts that night and dominating the conversation online. On Twitter some 221,000 people were tweeting about the event in the U.S. and those were seen 162.8 million times, according to Twitter TV impressions data from Nielsen. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who had a tough time in Trump's absence, was the most mentioned candidate of the night as his last name was mentioned in 110,000 tweets about the debate.

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