You'll never guess the most-watched presidential debate in history

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It's been 47 months and four days since we've last witnessed a presidential debate — and Monday's kickoff to the three primetime events can't come fast enough for cable news networks.

Back on Oct. 22, 2012 — the last one — Barack Obama and Mitt Romney went toe-to-toe to the tune(-in) of 59.2 million total viewers. That's a ton of eyeballs, but it was actually the lowest-rated of their three go-arounds. Expect Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton to put that figure to shame right away, boosted by the unusually high potential trainwreck factor.

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Four years ago, the debates were simulcast on the most networks ever — this year won't be any different, though a greater abundance of livestreams should impact linear numbers, making 2016 murkier than previous campaigns.

In 2012, the first round reached 67.2 million overall audience members, which was actually the most registered by Nielsen since Oct. 15, 1992 (69.9 million), when George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot traded barbs and plans for America. That triple threat match back in '92 ended up being the second most-watched presidential debate of all time.

So what's the record? And can Trump-Clinton take it down?

On Oct. 28, 1980, in their only televised bout of the year, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan set a still-standing presidential debate record with 80.6 million total viewers. Yes, really. Based on how much TV viewing has changed, that record's unlikely to ever fall — even with the unusual anticipation building for Trump vs. Clinton.

SEE MORE: 15 notable debate moments

15 notable presidential debate moments in history
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15 notable presidential debate moments in history
(Original Caption) San Francisco: Jimmy Carter (L) takes notes as Pres. Ford makes a point during the second of the presidential debates at the Palace of Fine Arts here.
Vice President Richard Nixon dabs at his chin and lip in Los Angeles on Oct. 13, 1960, during his televised debate with Sen. John F. Kennedy. Nixon was in a studio in Los Angeles, while Kennedy was in a studio in New York. This was the third in a series of debates between the two presidential candidates. (AP Photo)
Rick Perry stumbles when trying to name the three Federal Departments he would eliminate as president during the CNBC Michigan GOP Presidential Debate in Rochester, Michigan. (Photo by Ralf-Finn Hestoft/Corbis via Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS - OCTOBER 02: Democratic vice presidential candidate U.S. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) and Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (L) greet each other at the start of the vice presidential debate at the Field House of Washington University's Athletic Complex on October 2, 2008 in St. Louis, Missouri. The highly anticipated showdown between the two vice-presidential candidates will be their only debate before the election. (Photo by Don Emmert-Pool/Getty Images)
Presidential candidate Ross Perot speaks during the 1992 Presidential Debates. (Photo by © Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, United States: US Vice-President Dick Cheney points during his face off with Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards at Case Western Reserve University 05 October, 2004 in Cleveland, Ohio. The vice-presidential debate is focusing on foreign and domestic policies. AFP PHOTO/Steve JAFFE (Photo credit should read STEVE JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
YEAR-2008 US Republican presidential candidate John McCain (R) and Democrat Barack Obama leave the table after the final presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on October 15, 2008. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
New York Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (L) stands on stage with rival Illinois Senator Barack Obama (C) and Republican presidential contender Arizona Senator John McCain (R) at the end of the ABC/Facebook New Hampshire debates in Manchester, 05 January 2008. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Omaha, Nebraska: Following their vice presidential debate, Senators Lloyd Bentsen (L) of Texas and Dan Quayle (R) of Indiana reach out to shake hands, October 5th.
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 07: Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (R) speaks during the debate with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) (L) at the Town Hall Presidential Debate at Belmont University's Curb Event Center October 7, 2008 in Nashville, Tennessee. Tonight's debate is the second presidential debate of three, the only one being held in the town hall style with questions coming from audience members. (Photo by Anthony Jacobs/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis wipes his upper lip during the first presidential debate with his opponent U.S. Vice President George Bush in Winston-Salem, N.C., Sunday night, Sept. 25, 1988. (AP Photo/Bob Jordan)
CLEVELAND, United States: Gwen Ifill (C), moderator of the vice-presidential debate, faces US Vice-President Dick Cheney (L) and Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards 05 October, 2004 during the candidates only face-to-face debate in the 2004 White House race at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.The vice-presidential debate is focusing on foreign and domestic policies. AFP PHOTO/Jeff HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 13: Vice presidential candidate James Stockdale, an independent candidate, speaks during the debate at Georgia Tech 13 October, 1992 in Atlanta, GA. Stockdale debated Vice President Dan Quayle and Senator Al Gore. (Photo credit should read J. DAVID AKE/AFP/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Kansas City: Combo of President Reagan and his Democratic opponent, Walter Mondale in their final Presidential debate of the 1984 campaign in Kansas City.
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2000: Texas Gov. George W. Bush answers a question as Vice President Al Gore looks on during the third and final presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis. (Photo by Harry Hamburg/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Of course, Nielsen didn't measure total viewers back in 1960 for Nixon-Kennedy, so we can't properly speak to that debate's final tally. Their four face-offs drew far fewer households than Carter-Reagan, however, as the television set was less popular and America less populated, so we can safely assume it wouldn't upset the top slot.

Check out the chart below, in which TheWrap ranks every available televised presidential debate by total viewers.

presidential debate ratings chart

Read original story You'll Never Guess the Most-Watched Presidential Debate in History (Chart) At TheWrap

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