You know, that fourth hour with Kathie Lee and Hoda has always been a weak link. It could use some spicing up, a little fresh blood. Just saying. Just puttin’ that out there.

Was this ever really in doubt?

Sarah Palin’s appearance as a guest host on NBC’s Today beat Katie Couric’s guest hosting of ABC’s Good Morning America in the ratings battle on Tuesday. The NBC morning show has held its 17-year ratings lead over its ABC rival for the first two days of this week.

With Palin guest hosting, Today drew just under 5.5 million total viewers on Tuesday, according to Nielsen Fast National data. Good Morning America drew 5.14 million viewers with Couric, who is filling in all week.

How much of a difference did Palin make? Hard to tell without a full week’s worth of ratings data, but compare yesterday’s numbers to (a) Monday’s, (b) a week in mid-March, and (c) the first quarter’s. Via TV Newser:

First quarter: 5.39M overall, 2.39M in the key 25-54 demo
Week of March 19: 4.98M overall, 2.18M in key demo
Monday: 5.11M overall, 2.20M in key demo
Tuesday with Palin: 5.5M overall, 2.21M in key demo

First quarter: 4.93M overall, 2.00M in key demo
Week of March 19: 4.84M overall, 1.97 in key demo
Monday with Katie: 4.78M overall, 1.76M in key demo
Tuesday with Katie: 5.14M overall, 1.92M in key demo

Both shows beat their usual overall numbers for all relevant periods, but interestingly both performed below their first-quarter averages in the key demo. Katie’s debut Monday actually did worse than the mid-March weekly average, but she came roaring back yesterday; “Today,” which beat its mid-March average on Monday, did even better by comparison, gaining nearly 390,000 viewers overall for Palin versus the 360,000 ABC gained for Katie from Monday to Tuesday. So yeah, Palin clearly helped. But like I say, the rest of the week will give us a better sense of how much.

Via the Blaze, even Jon Stewart thought she was “actually quite good and likable.” Sort of.