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Ratings provide no clear winner in Trump-Fox feud

Ratings provide no clear winner in Trump-Fox feud
Republican presidential candidates, from left, Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie after the Fox News-Google GOP Debate Thursday at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines. Residents of Iowa will vote for the Republican nominee at the caucuses on Feb. 1. Donald Trump, who is leading most polls in the state, decided not to participate in the debate. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

UPDATES WITH FINAL LIVE RATINGS: The ratings for the GOP debate on Fox News and Donald Trump's benefit event for veterans offer no clear winner in the feud between the candidate and the conservative cable channel.

Fox News earned a rating of 8.4 during the debate Thursday, which means 8.4 percent of TV households were tuned to the debate. That o translate to 12.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

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That is only about half the audience that watched the first Fox GOP debate in August. That one included Trump.

So the billionaire candidate will clearly be able to claim that his absence hurt Fox Thursday.

Further, if Fox was selling ads with a promise of anything bigger than 12 million, which I imagine it was, it will probably have to provide advertising time free of charge to make up the difference.

On the plus side for Fox, CNN and MSNBC combined -- the two channels that carried most of Trump's improvised event Thursday night -- drew less than a quarter of the debate audience.

So that gives Fox News some room to boast about how it beat down Trump in the ratings -- though CNN only carried about 15 minutes of the event.

Still, on the eve of the Iowa caucuses, 8.4 has to be a disappointing number. It is barely larger than the number the last GOP debate drew on the Fox Business Network, and that is a platform with a smaller reach.

As I wrote when Trump's decision to ditch the debate was first announced: No one wins in the game of chicken they played this week.

UPDATE: The audience between 9 and 11 p.m. for Fox News was 12.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen. Addressing the issue of having to make up for the smaller audience, a Fox sales executive said the telecast was sold on the basis of live-plus-three-day viewing and that the channel "does not anticipate an issue once those numbers come in." However, that seems unduly seems optimistic to me. We will report those numbers here when they become available in about two weeks.

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