The preliminary ratings are in for Tuesday night’s CNN GOP National Security debate and it registered the smallest audience of a major cable or broadcast debate in the last two months.
With the exception of the November 9 debate, which was shown on CNBC, the ratings had been fairly steady for the past two months, averaging about 5.7 million total viewers per debate. Tuesday night CNN attracted just 3.6 million, which matched the September 12 debate.
The sharp drop-off may be a sign of debate fatigue since we have been subjected to 11 in the last six months with another dozen scheduled between now and March. Or it could be an aberration due to the fact that it came just two days before Thanksgiving. But even CBS managed to attract nearly 5.5 million viewers on a Saturday night while competing against one of the biggest football games of the year, so I think it’s more of the former than the latter.
CNN didn’t help itself either with a format that tried to give all the candidates equal time, no matter how low they were in the polls. This turned it into more of a display of perennial Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul’s anti-war position and less on what the GOP will do to get the country back on track.
If the public hasn’t totally lost interest by the time CNN hosts the next debate in mid January, maybe they could actually focus on the top tier candidates so that a real discussion of the issues can take place instead of the rather tedious affair they broadcast on Tuesday.