The Republican presidential primary debates have been lacking a certain spark without former President Donald Trump, much like “American Idol” without Simon Cowell. And the ratings reflect this absence. Trump made the decision to skip the primary debates as polls showed him “leading the field by ‘legendary’ numbers.” This has left five other GOP hopefuls — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina — to take the stage in Miami and try to make their case for the nomination. However, their attempts to capture attention have fallen on disinterested ears.
— Marie Antoinette (@GuitarJPalumbo) November 13, 2023
Wednesday night’s debate drew a paltry 7.5 million viewers, down 46 percent from the third GOP primary debate in the 2016 race, which featured Trump and nine other candidates. This decline in viewership follows a worrisome trend, with each debate attracting fewer viewers than the last. For example, the first GOP debate on Fox News in August had about 13 million viewers, while the second Fox News debate in September only garnered 9.5 million viewers.
The ratings are even worse among the key 25-54 demographic, with only 1.3 million viewers tuning in for the NBC debate. However, NBC News claims it was the second most-watched Republican primary debate in NBCU News Group’s history. The fact remains that Trump dominates the field, with recent polls showing him beating DeSantis by more than 40 points. Other polls have also indicated that Trump is leading President Joe Biden in major battleground states.
With no other GOP contender even coming close to Trump’s popularity, it’s no wonder that viewers are losing interest. This lackluster viewership is a clear sign that the people see these candidates as insignificant and are voting with their remotes. In fact, a Rasmussen poll from October found that 52 percent of GOP voters and 40 percent of all voters wanted to end the debates. Given the falling ratings and Trump’s overwhelming support among Republicans, perhaps it’s time for Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel to consider canceling the fourth primary debate.