The ratings for Fox News Channel’s Republican presidential primary debate took an expected hit from Donald Trump’s decision not to participate in the event, staged Thursday night in Des Moines.

The debate averaged 12.5 million viewers. It was the second-smallest audience of the seven GOP primary debates and about half what Fox News scored with its first GOP debate in August.

Even with the decline, the debate attracted the second-largest audience in Fox News’ history and was the most watched program in prime time, according to Nielsen. Trump had predicted the event would be a “total disaster” without him, but the audience exceeded the 11 million who watched his last debate appearance.

Los Angeles Times