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Canidates, GOP Debate

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Forget who you thought the winners and losers were from last night's debate (though it was pretty obvious it was Megyn Kellyfor the win). 

The big champ wasn't Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or, hell, even Mike Huckabee. The clear victor was Fox News, whose coverage of the first 2016 Republican debate didn't just break political ratings records, it broke cable records as well. 

Which means Fox News chief Roger Ailes is probably sending Trump the greatest fruit basket he can possibly find. 

An astounding 24 million(!!) viewers tuned from 9 p.m. ET to 11 p.m. ET to see the candidates spar over all the big political issues (like Rosie O'Donnell). This number includes a staggering 7.9 million in the 25-to-54 advertising demo. 

That didn't just break a record, it completely napalmed it.

Here is some perspective: The largest audience for a cable program was last season's premiere of The Walking Dead at 17.3 million viewers. As Trump himself would say, "Yoooge."

According to Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated, NBC's Sunday Night Football's most-watched game last year was the Cowboy's-Eagles game in Week 15, which drew 24.3 million viewers. Tony Romo who?

From a debate perspective, this primary debate smashed the previous record which was the 2008 Democratic primary debate featuring Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. According to the Washington Post, that debate garnered only a measly 10.7 million viewers. 

However the Trump debate does not rank as the highest-rated debate in television history. That honor is bestowed to a man many of the candidates mentioned last night, Ronald Reagan, whose presidential debate against Jimmy Carter in 1980 was watched by 80.6 million viewers. Granted, that figure was on network television, but it's still enormous nonetheless. 

Which probably means CNN, who carries the next debate on Sept. 16, will do everything it can to keep Donald Trump in this race. No word yet if CNN has asked Rosie to moderate. 

PHOTOS: 2016 presidential candidates