Viewers who tuned into the Republican debate on Monday night hoping for fireworks, similar to what Newt Gingrich supplied in the previous week’s debate, apparently weren’t too disappointed as NBC racked up the best ratings for the debates in more than a month.
The debates, which seemed to have peaked with the Iowa debate hosted by ABC on December 10 with 7.6 million viewers, got a much needed shot in the arm on Monday night with 7.1 million viewers tuning in. That reversed the downward trend of the last few debates. The ratings for the first 90 minutes of this latest debate were even higher at 7.4 million viewers, but came down when NBC switched to include the younger, embedded reporters.
Even though Gingrich was not the force he was last Thursday, the audience hung in there for the most part hoping that somehow Newt would find an opportunity to continue his attack on the mainstream media.
But Brian Williams wasn’t about to fall into the same trap as CNN’s John King and launched a preemptive strike by taking the audience out of the debate. He warned them not to clap, boo or cheer, which also took away one of Gingrich’s best weapons.
Even though NBC didn’t top ABC’s December numbers, they did shatter the previous high in the key A25-54 demographic with nearly 2.6 million viewers, topping ABC by nearly 500,000 viewers.
There is another debate tonight, this time hosted by CNN and moderated by Wolf Blitzer. CNN has already stated that they will not restrain the audience, as NBC did, and will just ask that they be respectful of the candidates.
This should be more lively than the debate on Monday, but based on CNN’s debate ratings so far, the audience is likely to be significantly smaller.