Outside of Barack Obama, one of Tuesday's biggest winners was CNN, which not only presented the best journalism but also finished first among cable channels in viewers.

According to Nielsen's Fast Ratings, CNN was seen by an average audience of 8.8 million total viewers from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. election night. It also had audiences of 4.4 million adults ages 25 to 54 and 2.7 million viewers between the ages of 18 and 34.


That topped perennial ratings winner Fox News, which had an audience of 8.7 million total viewers, with 3.5 million and 1.2 million in the key demos.

MSNBC had an overall audience of 4.6 million total viewers with 2 million and 785,000 in the key demos.

Fast nationals are subject to some fluctuation once the final tally comes in, and Fox could even wind up edging ahead of CNN for the total night. Fox did win in prime time (8 to 11 p.m.) by about 2 million viewers.

But make no mistake about it, given the way Fox has trounced CNN in the ratings for years, this is a huge victory for CNN, which has been having identity struggles.

Most of all, CNN's election night performance is a reminder of the kind of journalistic muscle and ratings clout the network exhibited in the 2008 election when it was the poster channel for the belief that good journalism could be good business.

Among the broadcast networks, it was NBC with an average audience of 12.1 million viewers in prime time, followed by ABC with 10.5 and CBS with 7.9 million viewers.

A total of 66.8 million viewers tuned into 13 channels to watch political coverage during prime time Tuesday, according to Nielsen Media Research.