CNBC sets viewership record with GOP debate

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GOP Debate Zingers

The Republican primaries are the gift that keeps giving. CNBC pulled in 14 million viewers for the third GOP face-off, the most watched night in network history.

That puts the debate, focused on the economy, as the lowest rated of the three Republican debates so far, an outcome network executives expected. But that's still an enormous audience for CNBC, which attracted 3.1 million viewers for its debate during the last presidential election cycle in Nov. 2011. Previously to most watched program in primetime was the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics in February 2002 when the network attracted 3.9 million viewers.

See more from Wednesday's debate below:

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GOP Debate - 10/28
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CNBC sets viewership record with GOP debate
BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 28: Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R), Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz (R-TX), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) pose for a photo at the CNBC Republican Presidential Debate at University of Colorado's Coors Events Center October 28, 2015 in Boulder, Colorado. Fourteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the third set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Ben Carson watches as Donald Trump takes the stage during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Ben Carson, right, watches as Donald Trump speaks during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 28: Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R), Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz (R-TX), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) take the stage at the CNBC Republican Presidential Debate at University of Colorados Coors Events Center October 28, 2015 in Boulder, Colorado. Fourteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the third set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, businesswoman Carly Fiorina speaks during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Jeb Bush, center, stands with Mike Huckabee, left, and Marco Rubio during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Chris Christie, left, and Donald Trump talk during a break in the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Ben Carson, right, watches as Donald Trump speaks during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
John Kasich, left, and Donald Trump, second from right, argue across fellow candidates during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Carly Fiorina, center, speaks as Ben Carson, left, and Ted Cruz look on during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Donald Trump smiles during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Rand Paul, right, speaks as Chris Christie looks on during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Ted Cruz, left, Chris Christie, center, and Rand Paul take the stage during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Republican presidential candidates, from left, John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and Rand Paul appear during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Mike Huckabee speaks during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Marco Rubio, right, and Jeb Bush, argue a point during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
John Kasich makes a point during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 28: Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R), Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz (R-TX), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) take part in the CNBC Republican Presidential Debate at University of Colorados Coors Events Center October 28, 2015 in Boulder, Colorado. Fourteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the third set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Marco Rubio speaks during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Chris Christie makes a point during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
2016 presidential candidates Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, left, Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc., center, and Ben Carson, former neurosurgeon, stand on stage at the start of the Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015. Three Republican senators running for president have come out swinging against a bipartisan budget deal as an emblem of everything that's wrong in Washington, making it a likely pinata in the party's third debate Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Ted Cruz, left, Chris Christie, center, and Rand Paul take the stage during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
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Fox News still holds the record for debate ratings with 24 million viewers for the first GOP face-off last August, while CNN's three-hour Republican debate Sept. 16 was watched by just over 23 million people. Even the Democrats pulled in 15.3 million viewers on CNN on Oct. 13.

Watch more coverage below:

GOP Debate: 'I'm Wearing a Trump Tie' & Other Funny Moments

MORE TO READ: GOP Chief Slams CNBC Debate Moderators: They "Should Be Ashamed"

The debate was the first since Ben Carson surged past Donald Trump in a national poll and several Iowa polls. But the candidates largely resisted vilifying each other, with the possible exception of Floridians Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. Instead, they united in attacking moderators Carl Quintanilla, Becky Quick and John Harwood and the "mainstream media" as being in the tank for the Democrats.

SEE MORE ELECTION COVERAGE AT AOL.COM

It's a familiar conservative refrain, to be sure. Rubio called the media the "ultimate Super PAC" for the Democrats. And Chris Christie lambasted the moderators for asking about fantasy football in the form of a question about legalized gambling. Trump was also characteristically derisive of the interlocutors, especially when Harwood likened his campaign to something out of a comic book. And he scored loud applause from the audience at the University of Colorado Boulder in his closing remarks when he took credit (with Carson) for keeping the debate to two hours "so we could get the hell out of here."

MORE TO READ: Critic's Notebook: At GOP Debate, Candidates Bond Over Bashing the Press

Watch more below:

Debate Winners and Losers

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