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Donald Trump or the Fox News GOP debate: Who won the higher ratings?

Fallout from Fox News GOP debate without fron... 03:57

Despite Donald Trump's declaration of victory over Fox News Thursday night, viewers still tuned in to the Des Moines Iowa debate at much higher numbers than those who watched Trump's competing event.

According to television ratings company Nielsen, 12.5 million people tuned in to Fox News between 9 and 11 p.m. for the main stage debate.

In comparison, the cable channels that showed portions of Trump's veterans benefit, CNN and MSNBC, had a total of 2.7 million viewers combined. Other networks, like CBS News' 24-hour-news channel CBSN, livestreamed parts of Trump's event online as well.

In the lead-up to the debate, Trump blasted Fox News and claimed that a forum without the billionaire businessman would garner "no ratings."

He also tweeted Wednesday that the debate -- the last before the nation's first caucuses on Feb. 1 -- would garner "low ratings with advertisers and advertising rates dropping like a rock."

While Trump's fundraiser -- held at Drake University at the same time as the GOP debate -- did not outpace Fox News's viewership, the GOP debate in Des Moines was not as highly rated as other Republican primary debates. The first GOP debate, also hosted by Fox News, attracted 24 million, the largest audience ever for a cable program that wasn't a sports event, and the next one drew almost as many -- 23 million -- on CNN.

In fact, Thursday's forum was the second lowest-rated debate so far: only Fox Business Network had fewer viewers at their GOP debate in South Carolina earlier this month. That Republican debate only drew 11 million viewers.

Even with this lower rating, however, Thursday's debate was watched by more people than three of the four Democratic debates.

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