First Republican Primary Debate Greatly Underperformed Donald Trump’s Debut in 2015

According to data from Nielsen Media Research, just 12.8 million people tuned into the Fox News’ Republican primary debate on August 23, 2023 in Milwaukee. This figure is 13 million viewers less than former President Donald Trump’s debut on the debate stage in 2015. 

Among the advertising demographic of viewers in the age range from 25 to 54, the debate had 2.8 million viewers. 

Fox News asserted the debate picked up more viewers than over 70% of all presidential primary debates that took place during the 2016 and 2020 presidential election cycles. On top of that, the establishment right-wing network claimed that the debate was the highest-rated non-sports cable event of 2023.

According to a report by The Hill, the first two Democrat primary debates, which had 19 million and 15 million viewers, respectively, still topped the first Republican Party debate of the 2024. The third Democrat debate enjoyed the viewership of 10 million people. 

This initial debate took a hit in the ratings due to Trump’s decision to not attend the event. Trump alluded to a massive lead in the polls among his Republican rivals as one of the reasons for his decision to not participate in the debate. 

Another reason for why Trump opted to not participate in the debates was likely based on his eventual decision to surrender himself to the Fulton County Jail in Georgia on August 24. He received a 13-count indictment for allegedly engaging in racketeering in his effort to challenge the results of the 2020 election. 

Undoubtedly, Trump remains the Republican Party’s strongest draw. Only those who are in complete denial don’t recognize this harsh reality. 

If the GOP is to survive as a viable political entity, it must stand behind Trump and his nationalist message throughout the 2024 presidential election cycle and subsequent political cycles where Trumpist candidates are present.  

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