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By Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Donald Trump’s surprisingly durable campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination continues to be ratings rocket fuel for TV news.

An hourlong interview with Trump taped earlier in the day with CNN’s New Day co-anchor Chris Cuomo drew 1.1 million viewers in the 9 p.m. ET time slot on Wednesday, according to Nielsen. The audience is the largest for the cable news channel in that hour since April 28, when it covered the anti-police riots in Baltimore. Among viewers in the 25-to-54 age group, the hour scored 369,000.

CNN was still second in the hour to The Kelly File on Fox News Channel, which had 2.6 million viewers (Martha MacCallum filled in for the vacationing Megyn Kelly). But Fox News has already seen what Trump can do to its ratings, as the channel’s Republican primary debate drew a record-setting 24 million viewers on Aug. 6.

CNN will air the next GOP debate, scheduled for Sept. 16 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., and there already is anticipation among some in the TV news industry that the audience could be even larger.

Before the CNN interview aired, all three major cable news networks went live around 7 p.m. ET with Trump’s news conference and “town hall” appearance in Derry, N.H. MSNBC and CNN saw a lift in their audience levels compared to earlier in the week, while Fox News, which typically leads in the hour, was about the same.

Trump also boosted the Sunday morning audience for NBC’s Meet The Press to its highest level since Feb. 9, 2014. NBC political director Chuck Todd interviewed Trump while he stumped in Iowa, the real estate mogul’s first appearance on the program as a candidate.

The extended coverage on cable news indicates that Trump’s candidacy has transitioned from what looked like a novelty to a full-blown movement as he remains the front-runner in every poll of Republican contenders. But the ratings are likely making it an easy decision to spend more time on him.

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures after arriving for jury duty at Manhattan Supreme Court in New York, August 17, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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