Barack Obama, John McCain

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No Sarah Palin, no problem.

The John McCain-Barack Obama title card pulled in 63.2 million viewers last night, the biggest audience for a presidential debate since 1992, Nielsen Media Research said late today.

Like many sequels, the new show handily outgrossed the original. McCain-Obama II was watched by nearly 11 million more people than the first debate on Sept. 26 (52.4 million).

Also, like many sequels, the reviews weren't great. 

The nation's leading political pundits, i.e., the ladies of The View, unanimously declared the 90-minute, town-hall-style face-off dull.

The debate, nonetheless, goes down as the ninth most-watched presidential debate on Nielsen record. It drew more people than any presidential debate since a Bill Clinton, Ross Perot, President George H.W. Bush matchup in 1992 (66.9 million).

It does not, however, go down as the most-watched debate of the month.

That honor goes to last week's vice presidential debate between Obama running mate Joe Biden and Saturday Night Live sensation Palin. That contest, the most-watched veep debate of all time, and the second most-watched veep or presidential debate on record, was watched by 69.9 million. (If you count the PBS audience, which some news organizations do, but Nielsen doesn't, the already-whopping number goes up to 73 million.)

Last night's debate played biggest on ABC, which dominated with 13.8 million viewers—or, more people than caught the network's elimination-free Dancing With the Stars results show (13.4 million). 

The debate played best in Nashville, Tenn., which hosted the sparring contest over health care, Iraq and which bills "that one," as McCain once referenced Obama, voted for in the Senate.

McCain and Obama have one more opportunity to surpass Biden-Palin: Oct. 15, the date of their third and final debate.

(Originally published October 8, 2008 at 11:45 a.m. PT.)

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