CNBC sets viewership record with GOP debate

GOP Debate Zingers
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:

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
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.

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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
Debate Winners and Losers

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