(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)
69.9 million people watched the debate, tying it for second place among all Presidential and Vice Presidential debates. (The second Bush/Clinton/Perot debate of 1992 also have 69.9 million. The all-time debate leader is the Carter/Reagan debate of 1980.)
This is 17.5 million viewers more than the McCain/Obama debate last Friday.
More women (35.7 million) watched the debate than men (30.4 million).
Compared to the McCain/Obama debate, viewing was up among all ethnic groups, including African American, Hispanic and White.
Although scheduling the debate on a Thursday was obviously a factor in attracting more viewers than the presidential debate last Friday, public curiosity about Sarah Palin clearly drove these higher ratings.
As with her blockbuster speech at the Republican National Convention, Americans again proved their preference for taking the measure of this newcomer to the national political scene directly, without filtration through the old-media spinners. The results will continue to percolate between now and election day, probably not showing their full effect in the political opinion polls taken between now and then.
Obviously, some millions of those who tuned in did so with the expectation and even the fervent hope that Gov. Palin would implode on-screen; their votes aren't likely to be changed even though their hopes and expectations were bitterly disappointed.
But it's equally obvious that millions of others who tuned in did so because they are still open to persuasion. Thus, these objective and unprecedented numbers are terrific news for the McCain-Palin campaign.