GOP Primary Debates Setting Viewership Records

Thursday, 15 Dec 2011 11:41 AM

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The GOP primary debates are drawing a record numbers of viewers. The 15 debates have averaged about 5.6 million viewers, placing them among the most popular shows on cable, The Washington Post reported.

Last Saturday’s debate drew a record 7.6 million viewers and another debate is set for tonight on the Fox News Channel. “There’s hype, there’s drama, there’s uncertainty,” Mitchell McKinney, a University of Missouri professor who specializes in political debates, told the Post. “The debates have become like a reality show, like the next version of ‘Survivor.’ ”

The debates have had a series of memorable moments not only from the candidates but also audience reactions that have spilled over into other print and broadcast outlets. The moments include Mitt Romney’s sparring with Rick Perry over a $10,000 bet and the audience booing after a gay soldier asked about the now-defunct Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Additionally, candidates’ fortunes have risen and fallen as a result of their performance, the Post reported, ramping up the suspense for the next encounter.

“The debates have been fascinating to watch this year,” Sam Feist,  CNN’s Washington bureau chief, told the Post. “They have been interesting and important at the same time. There are lots of [programs] that are important but not interesting, and some that are interesting but not important. These are both.

“The country is facing significant challenges, and there are viewers and voters who are trying to decide which of the candidates to vote for. You have independents and Democrats watching, too.”


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