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Republican debate ratings rise again as 14.5 million watch Thursday's rumble on CNN and Telemundo

The upward ratings trajectory for the Republican primary debates continued Thursday as 14.52 million watched the candidates face off on CNN and Telemundo.

The feisty showdown in Houston was the fourth-straight GOP debate to see audience growth. The figure from Nielsen made it the fourth-largest audience out of the 10 debates held in the campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

CNN averaged 13.25 million viewers from 8:42 p.m. to 10:53 p.m. Eastern time. Another 1.265 million watched on Spanish-language network Telemundo. CNN's Wolf Blitzer was moderator for the debate and Telemundo's Maria Celeste Arraras was on the panel of questioners.

Ratings have risen as the field gets smaller and more acrimonious — Thursday's debate featured several harsh exchanges between front-runner Donald Trump and his chief rivals, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

The CBS telecast of the Republican rumble on Feb. 13 was watched by 13.51 million viewers. A week earlier, 13.18 million watched the candidates on ABC. Fox News Channel's debate without Trump drew 12.5 million on Jan. 28, which was up over the 11 million for Fox Business Network's event on Jan. 14.

Fox News Channel is the next up, when Republicans meet March 3 in Detroit. It will be first rematch between the party's front-runner Donald Trump and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly since the Aug. 6 debate in Cleveland. Trump skipped the last Fox News debate in Iowa because he was still unhappy with Kelly's tough questioning the first time around. But Trump has stated his intent to show up next week.

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