NEW YORK (AP) – Despite competition from the baseball playoffs, an estimated 43.6 million television viewers watched Tuesday’s vice presidential debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards, Nielsen Media Research said.

That’s up from the 29.1 million people who saw Cheney take on Democrat Joe Lieberman in 2000, and reflects the heightened interest in the race.

Fox was the only major network not to carry the Cheney-Edwards debate. It was contractually required to show the New York Yankees-Minnesota Twins baseball playoff game, which had 8.5 million viewers.

Last week, 62.5 million people watched the first presidential debate between George W. Bush and John Kerry. The second of three presidential faceoffs is scheduled for this Friday.

It was the most-watched vice presidential debate since 1992, a three-way battle between Dan Quayle, Al Gore and Reform Party candidate James Stockdale, which had 51.2 million viewers. The only other vice presidential debate with a bigger audience was in 1984, when Geraldine Ferraro took on George Bush before 56.7 million people.

For the second debate in a row, more people watched on NBC, which had 11.5 million viewers. ABC had 10.3 million, CBS had 9.2 million, Fox News Channel had 7.8 million, CNN had 3.3 million and MSNBC had 1.5 million, Nielsen said. Audience estimates were not immediately available for PBS and C-SPAN.

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