How CNN's GOP Debate Ratings Stack Up to Fox News' Showdown

GOP debate Gingrich Romney Jan 19

Despite the departure of Rick Perry and the media's gaze fixed on Newt Gingrich, debate ratings dropped from Monday to Thursday.

CNN's GOP debate in South Carolina topped cable news last night, but it failed to garner as much of an audience as Fox News Channel did on Monday.

The Jan. 19 debate, moderated by CNN's John King, delivered 5.03 million viewers, according to fast national numbers from Nielsen. And 1.72 million of those were in the news key demo of adults 25-54. Coverage pushed CNN to a win among all cable news outlets between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m.

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Total viewership was down 9 percent from Fox's own South Carolina debate on Monday. The net brought in 5.5 million, though it failed to capture CNN's showing in the demo. It netted 1.6 million among adults 18-49.

CNN cites the ratings as its strongest showing the demo for a debate of this election cycle, though it failed to capture the total viewers of the October debate in Las Vegas -- when the stage was much more crowded. Compared to GOP debates on all networks, Thursday's now ranks 10th.

Thursday's debate did make for some rather compelling television. King came out of the gate with a personal question about Newt Gingrich's ex-wife speaking to ABC News, prompting the candidate to lay into the moderator.

“I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate,” Gingrich said, before wagging is finger at King. "Don’t try to blame somebody else. You and your staff chose to start this debate with it.”