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Gingrich-Romney Fireworks Propel CNN’s Florida GOP Debate

CNN posts its best performance in the key demo for any debate yet

CNN hit the sweet spot with its GOP candidates’ debate in Florida Thursday night, registering its best performance in the key demo during this election cycle and its second largest total audience.

Sparring between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich helped to propel CNN's Florida debate

The Wolf Blitzer-moderated sparring contest drew 5.4 million total viewers and 1.74 million in the adults 25-54 demo, the fourth best demo performance of any debate thus far and the second best among cable news networks.

Fox News’ debate in Iowa Dec. 15 still reigns supreme in cable with its 6.7 million total viewers and 1.87 in the demo, while ABC’s Iowa debate takes the cake overall in total viewers. NBC’s “Rock Center” debate in Florida Jan. 23 set the bar for the demo.

Also read: NBC's 'Rock Center' GOP Debate Is Second Most-Watched

As those numbers suggest, CNN’s debate is in the middle of the pack overall, but for the network they are substantial.

As Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney fought over grandmas, immigration and tax records, viewers pushed CNN well ahead of its cable news foes Thursday night, and the network held onto its lead in the 10 p.m. hour.

CNN is slated to host the next scheduled debate Feb. 22: Yes, viewers get a reprieve from the nearly endless series of debates — unless another pops up before then.

Photos Courtesy of David S. Holloway — CNN