What Donald Trump giveth, he taketh away—sort of.
Fueled by Trump’s presence in the Republican presidential race, the ratings for the GOP debates have soared through the roof, making the networks and the Republican National Committee very happy.
Those record ratings took a big hit last Thursday when GOP frontrunner Donald Trump noisily dropped out of the Fox News Channel-moderated debate as a result of his months-long feud with the conservative network and anchor Megyn Kelly. She had the audacity to ask Trump tough questions at the first debate in August.
After attracting 24 million viewers for that debate, the network averaged 12.5 million on Thursday, which was probably far less than Fox had hoped for, but still well above what they normally average during primetime.
Trump, who held his own event just three miles down the road from where the debate took place, definitely stole some of Fox’s audience—just not as much as he had hoped. Both CNN and MSNBC covered portions of the Trump event, averaging a combined 2.9 million viewers from 9 to 11 p.m., with a high of 3.8 million when Trump was speaking.
The reality is that the ratings were down only partially due to Trump’s absence. They were probably more affected by voter fatigue—this was the seventh debate. Fox News isn’t likely to hit the earlier lofty levels—even with Trump—during the primary cycle.