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MSNBC's GOP Debate is Highest-Rated of the Season

MSNBC pulls in 5.4 million viewers with Texas Governor Rick Perry making his first appearance at a GOP debate.

MSNBC GOP Debate - H 2011
MSNBC

Wednesday night's Republican debate was a hit for MSNBC. The GOP face-off, which featured Texas Governor Rick Perry in his first debate since officially declaring his candidacy, was watched by 5.4 million viewers from 8-9:49 p.m. ET, according to Nielsen.

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That marks the most-watched debate of the season, out-raitng Fox News Channel's Aug. 11 Republican debate, which was watched by 5.0 million viewers.

CNN's debate last June pulled in 3.1 million viewers and the first Republican debate on Fox News back in May was watched by 3.2 million viewers.

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The pattern is fairly typical; tune-in for the debates increases as the campaigns wear on. But it's safe to say that Perry's appearance juiced tune-in for MSNBC. NBC News co-hosted the debate with Politico.

Last night's debate also gave MSNBC a primetime victory -- among total viewers and news' target demographic of 25-54-year-olds -- over perennial cable news leader Fox News Channel. MSNBC averaged 4.3 million viewers from 8-11 p.m. compared to FNC's 2.2 million, with 1.3 million in the demo compared to FNC's 492,000.