The number of viewers who tuned in to watch the second Republican presidential debate on Wednesday night declined 27 percent, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.
An estimated 9.5 million people watched the second primary debate without former President Donald Trump, which was aired on Fox News Channel and Fox Business, as well as Univision, the Nielsen company said.
The viewership is well below the 13 million who tuned into Fox News to watch the August debate, which marked the first showdown of Republican presidential candidates.
The 9.5 million who watched Wednesday’s debate hosted at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, include nearly 2 million viewers aged 25 to 54, an important group for advertisers. In comparison, the first debate drew an estimated 2.8 million viewers from that age group.
Fox News said in a statement that the second primary debate drew more viewers than any other programs on the broadcast and cable news networks during primetime hours on Wednesday.
Unlike the first event, which featured eight GOP contestants, only seven presidential hopefuls took the stage for the second primary debate: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.
President Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination in polls, hasn’t shown up on the debate stage alongside his rivals.
The former president skipped the first primary debate. Instead, he pre-recorded an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that went viral on the social media platform X, right before the Aug. 24 debate started. The interview obtained nearly 200 million views. On Sept. 27, President Trump traveled to Detroit and spoke to the blue-collar automakers.
In comparison, when the former president appeared at the Republican primary debate for the first time in August 2015, nearly 24 million people tuned into Fox News to watch the event. The rating of his second primary debate, hosted by CNN, declined slightly but attracted almost 23 million viewers.
Debates Without Trump
Mr. Christie and Mr. DeSantis called out President Trump for not attending the debate on Wednesday night.
“He should be on this stage tonight,” Mr. DeSantis said. “He owes it to you to defend his record where they added $7.8 trillion to the debt. That set the stage for the inflation we have now.
“Where’s Joe Biden? He’s completely missing in action from leadership. And you know who else is missing in action? Donald Trump is missing in action,” he said.
Mr. Christie said the former president “hides behind the walls of his golf clubs and won’t show up here to answer questions like all the rest of us are up here to answer.”
The third debate is scheduled to be held in Miami on Nov. 8.
Despite other contestants’ attacks, President Trump will not attend the debate. His campaign’s spokesperson has confirmed to The Epoch Times that the former president will skip all future debates.
“He said he’s not going to attend the debates, plural. And that’s his position—until it’s not,” Chris LaCivita, a senior adviser to President Trump’s 2024 campaign, told reporters following Wednesday’s debate, adding that such events had become more like a contest for “who’s going to be the designated survivor.”
Despite skipping the first two debates, as well as facing mounting legal challenges, President Trump continues his lead over the GOP primary field by over 40 percent, according to a RealClearPolitics aggregate of polls.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal poll (pdf), nearly 6 out of 10 (59 percent) national Republican primary voters say the former president is their first choice, followed by 13 percent who would pick Mr. DeSantis.
The survey was conducted on Aug. 24–30, beginning on the day when President Trump surrendered himself to authorities at the Fulton County jail on charges related to his alleged efforts to dispute Georgia’s 2020 election results. The case marked the fourth criminal case the former command-in-chief is facing.
The Associated Press and Katabella Roberts contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times