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Trump-Biden Debate Gets Historically High Viewership: Report

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


In what can only be described as worse news for President Joe Biden after his shoddy debate performance, the viewership ratings are in.

The debate, which was hosted by CNN but simulcast on 22 other networks, was watched by a staggering 51.3 million people, IndieWire reported. And when the clips circulating on the Internet and television are accounted for, the president’s trainwreck of a debate was viewed by far more people than Democrats would have liked.

“Thursday’s debate, hosted and moderated by CNN, was simulcast across 23 platforms in total: ABC, Fox, CBS, NBC, PBS, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, News Nation, Newsmax, C-SPAN, Scripps News, Univision, Bloomberg, Telemundo, Fox Business, TheGrio, The First, OAN, BET, Newsmax 2, Spectrum News, and Merit Street. Nielsen measures only 17 of those,” the report said.

“CNN averaged 8.7 million viewers tune in to its cable news channel. Fox News Channel averaged 8.8 million, the most for any individual platform. The debate began at 9 p.m. ET and ended at 10:39 p.m. ET, though live coverage continued in analysis form,” it said.

The silver lining, if there is one, for Biden is that his 2020 debates with Trump drew more viewers.

“While this was the first debate of the 2024 presidential-election cycle, Biden and Trump have, of course, debated before. And it’s been even bigger — much bigger, in fact. The first 2020 Presidential Debate, on September 29, 2020, drew 73.132 million total viewers, good enough for third place all-time. That one was simulcast on 16 different platforms: ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Telemundo, Univision, PBS, CNN, CNN en Español, Fox Business, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, Newsmax, Newsy, Vice, and WGN America,” the report said.

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The president’s performance was roundly panned, even by liberals in the media.

Shortly after the debate aired, former President Barack Obama advisers Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, Jon Lovett, and Dan Pfeiffer dissected it. Favreau said it was “possibly the worst” debate he’s ever seen in his entire life.

“I think it was a f**king disaster. I think it was maybe the worst debate I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Favreau said. “Donald Trump is a threat to democracy, Donald Trump is just a despicable human being, he should not be president, we have to do literally everything we possibly can to make sure that he is not president again, and that is why it was so fucking awful because Joe Biden in every single way failed at that debate.”

The hosts praised Biden’s presidency but argued he may not be the best candidate.

Vietor said the president “looked confused” and argued he “exacerbated” concerns about his age.

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“Debates are a performance and what you say and how you say it both matter and so the optics to start there were very bad tonight. He had to answer concerns about his age, I think he exacerbated them. His voice sounded frail. There was an answer where he kind of stalled out halfway through,” he said.

Vietor also argued that the second debate scheduled for the fall could be canceled.

“I’m also worried that there might not be another debate because if you’re Trump, you might be thinking, why not just leave it at that?” Vietor said.

Pfeiffer warned that the bar was already so low for Biden going into the debate and that he was unable to even meet those low expectations.

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“If Joe Biden had given a b-minus performance last night, we would be talking about Donald Trump. He lied, he made very little sense, he didn’t answer any questions,” Pfeiffer said.

Lovett described feeling everything from scared to sad while watching and declared there needs to be a “big open question” about whether the best way to beat Trump is with Biden or someone else.

“It would be silly not to have this conversation,” Favreau said. “The best thing Joe Biden did is to propose this debate before the convention and give us a chance now to rethink this.”

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