The Ratings for the Latest Democrat Debate Were a Dumpster Fire

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, gestures toward Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN/New York Times at Otterbein University, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Westerville, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)


Amazingly, a debate where the top tier consists of Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders is not something most Americans want to watch.

The ratings are in for the latest Democrat primary debate, which happened last Thursday evening via PBS. They are pretty terrible and not a good look for a party that’s counting on a supposed excitement advantage come 2020. Enthusiasm seems anemic at this point, as total viewership dropped for the sixth time in a row.

Last night’s Democratic debate, which inevitably dealt with the recent impeachment of President Donald Trump, drew just over 6 million total viewers for PBS and Politico, according to Nielsen figures. Topics such as the economy, climate change, racism, Afghanistan, and taxing the wealthy were also on the agenda.

That total, which counts the PBS broadcast and the simulcast on CNN and CNN en Español, makes it the least watched debate so far in the current cycle, only just behind the previous MSNBC debate which drew 6.5 million. Last night’s squaring off reached more than 2 million viewers across PBS stations nationwide, and was seen on CNN by just over 4 million people.

First off, why would you choose CNN to simulcast on? That’s like going to McDonald’s to get a gourmet hamburger, but hey, nothing the media does these days makes much sense. You certainly can’t blame the lack of viewership on the moderators, as they were just as liberal as normal, minus a few questions by Tim Alberta. All the typical social justice topics were covered, from race issues to climate change.


So just how bad are these numbers? Some Fox News shows draw almost as much as this debate on a regular weeknight. We aren’t talking any kind of special event or anything, just a regular old, normal show. You’d expect that a major primary debate only a month out from the first vote would have the left tuning in, but nope, they simply don’t care for the most part. Is that because they’ve made up their minds? Unlikely, as Ed Morrissey points out at HotAir.

The only possible positive explanation is that voters have already made their voting choices for the primaries. That doesn’t make too much sense, given the volatility in polling for Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Bernie Sanders over the last couple of months. It’s tough to aggregate polling on “not sure” as RCP doesn’t track that response, but the NBC/WSJ poll this week showed 5% unsure, only down slightly from 8% in July when millions more tuned in to see a debate.

The most likely explanation is that the Democrat field is just bad. Aside from the Bernie Bros, who will get excited about anything that old curmudgeon says, who’s really stoked about voting for Joe Biden? The guy’s campaign slogan is basically “I’m alive and I’m not Trump.” Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren is cratering, having seen her support get cut in half over the last few months. Pete Buttigieg is busy arguing about wine caves while he hovers around his typical mid-single digits. The rest on the stage are irrelevant, including Never Trump favorite Amy Klobuchar.


I’m not going to pretend that this is a great indicator of 2020 enthusiasm for Democrats, but it’s certainly not a good sign. There is no Barack Obama getting ready to electrify the campaign trail for them. In the end, this will come down to some old socialist slap fighting with Trump, and in that situation, the advantage goes to Trump.


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