Yuge: Trumpless Debate Earns Higher Ratings Than Last GOP Debate That Included Trump

Posted: Jan 29, 2016 4:35 PM

That headline is technically accurate: Last night's Trump-free Fox News forum pulled in roughly 12-13 million viewers, better than the 11 million or so who watched the Fox Business debate earlier this month, at which The Donald stood center stage.  Trump out, ratings up!  Well, sort of.  The Des Moines debate was still the second-least watched GOP debate of the cycle (maybe third-least, including online live streams), and many Trump fans -- suddenly highly interested in nuance in context -- are pointing out that the lowest-rated one aired on FBN, which has a smaller footprint than Fox News or CNN nationwide.  True enough, although FBN's November debate rated higher than three others, suggesting that viewership for these events has declined over time, with and without Trump. To wit: The Donald's social media army trying to pit last night's numbers (which dwarfed CNN and MSNBC's combined coverage of the billionaire's counter-programming rally) against Fox's August ratings bonanza, which is a ridiculous comparison.  Fox and CNN's first debates garnered truly massive audiences, then each network experienced a drop-off of millions of viewers in its subsequent debate, as did Fox Business. TV Line probably has the most evenhanded headline I've seen, characterizing the ratings as "steady' in Trump's absence.  The Trump campaign hilariously predicted that just "one or two million" Americans would tune into last night's proceedings.  Oops.  What's undoubtedly clear is that the current cycle's Republican debates are attracting much more attention than they did in 2012:

And far more eyeballs than the Democrats, who've enjoyed the benefit of two debates televised on over-the-air broadcast networks:

Good work, DNC.  The first Republican broadcast network debate of the 2016 race will air next Saturday night on ABC, ahead of the New Hampshire primary.  As I mentioned above, it was this debate (scheduled on the same night and on the same network) that pulled in the biggest rating of 2012.  Expect a big viewership surge this year, as well -- due to added interest after actual voting has begun, the wide accessibility its over-the-air network host, and, yes, the return of Donald Trump.  Assuming he doesn't throw another  spiteful conniption fit and run away again, that is.   I'll leave you with this: