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First GOP primary debate ratings set 24 million record for Fox News

First GOP primary debate ratings set 24 million record for Fox News
Ben Carson, left, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and businessman Donald Trump participate in the Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6, which earned top ratings for Fox News. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

He may have drawn boos at the first GOP primary debate on Thursday, but the ratings on Fox News prove that few can argue Donald Trump's star power.

The kickoff to the 2016 Republican White House race drew a stunning 24 million total viewers, breaking records for primary debates on cable TV, according to Nielsen.

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That was three times the audience for any previous primary debate. And it notched a record for the highest-rated non-sports program on basic cable.

The debate, which ran from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the West Coast but during prime time in eastern parts of the country, drew 7.9 million total viewers in the key demographic of adults ages 25 to 54.

The contest, featuring former "Apprentice" reality show star and real estate mogul Trump, fellow front runner Jeb Bush and eight other candidates, was heavily promoted in part because of Trump's penchant for personal attacks and outrageous claims.

Trump drew loud boos and groans at several points during the evening, including when he refused to promise he would not launch an independent candidacy if he did not get the nod from the GOP and when he bristled when Fox News' Megyn Kelly, one of three moderators, grilled him on his statements about women.

An earlier "happy hour" debate among seven candidates who did not poll highly enough to make the main event drew 6 million total viewers.

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT

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