About 12 million people watched the latest – and, according to Donald Trump, the last – GOP debate, on CNN, last night. Trump called it an “elegant” debate, which is to say he did not kick it off by assuring America that he has a large Executive Branch and refrained throughout from mocking the height of rival Marco Rubio.
The most recent GOP debate, March 3 on Fox News Channel, clocked 16.9 million viewers — the bigggest GOP debate audience since CNN’s December 15 GOP debate which logged 18M. But the biggest GOP debate crowd of this election cycle remains the 25M who sat glued to Trump’s debut debate, August 6 on Fox News Channel. That debate, which also marks the biggest non-sports event in cable TV history, was followed closely by the 23M who watched a Republican party debate on CNN on September 16.
In the news demo, adults 25-54, last night’s debate averaged 3.M viewers, which makes it the third highest debate of the year in the age bracket cable news networks target.
Last night’s debate appears to be the least watched of the GOP’s crop since Jan 14, which isn’t so long ago. But there have been five such debates since, leading up to last night’s. At a news conference this morning announcing Ben Carson’s endorsement, Trump said he thought the party needed to knock off with the debates. The next one is scheduled for March 21.
While Trump set the tone, as usual, of last night’s debate, the other candidates returned the favor, refraining even from blaming Trump for similarly setting the tone at his rallies, which have been marked by incidents of violence. Ted Cruz blamed President Obama, John Kasich said the violence perpetrators needed a hug. Marco Rubio came closest to dinging Trump, saying the mark of a leader is someone who can turn that anger to effecting political change.