Last night’s debate was popular with viewers — which probably is good news for Mitt Romney, who is generally regarded as having performed very well.
According to the overnight ratings, 58 million people tuned in to watch the candidates spar over the issues — a number that doesn’t include those who watched on PBS, Univision, or CSPAN or on-line. Surprisingly, more people watched this debate than watched the first presidential debate in 2008, when President Obama was at the height of his popularity. The TV audience also was far larger than the viewership for this year’s Democratic and Republican conventions.
I’m glad to see that the American people are paying attention to this election. I wonder whether the significantly increased viewership for this debate may have been influenced, at least in part, by a desire on the part of some fed-up voters who are sick of silly attack ads and the squawking of the punditocracy, the pollsters, and the spin jockeys, and just wanted to see President Obama and Mitt Romney in their unfiltered state, going toe to toe. I imagine that most people who watched the debate thought it was a worthwhile and interesting experience, and will encourage their friends to watch the next one. I’ll bet that the audience for the second debate will be larger still.
I hope that is the case, and I hope that the viewers also are reaching their own conclusions — not about who won or lost a mere debate, or who looked more “presidential,” but about which candidate is best suited for a very tough and important job. After all, that is the ultimate question that voters must decide.