Thursday's night's GOP debate on Fox News was seen by 24 million viewers, with 7.9 million of them in the key young-adult demographic.
That is the largest audience ever for a primary debate. It's also the largest in the history of Fox News and the largest in all of cable news.
That's a staggeringly large number for any political event on television. I expected a huge tune-in, but figured it would top out at 10 to 12 million. The most-watched Republican debate in 2012 drew 7.6 million viewers.
By way of comparison, the highest-rated prime-time series on all of television is NBC's "Sunday Night Football," which averages about 20 million a week. Last year's biggest game drew about 24 million.
Read my review here of what I saw as an expertly produced debate featuring 10 GOP candidates and moderators Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier and Chris Wallace. Kelly was outstanding.
A 5 p.m. debate, moderated by Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum, averaged 6.1 million total viewers and 1.2 million viewers in the A25-54 demo, making it the third-highest primary presidential debate ever for the network. It featured the seven GOP candidates who did not poll high enough to make the prime-time debate.
Jon Stewart's finale drew 3.5 million TV viewers Thursday. That was the second largest audience ever for "The Daily Show." The largest audience, 3.6 million, tuned in for a visit from Barack Obama in 2008.
I have been highly critical of the way Stewart let Obama use his show to sell the president's political agenda in recent years.