It would appear that there are a great many outlets who really, REALLY, want Donald Trump to have succeeded in “winning” last night’s GOP debate without having actually been there.
Vox Vox-splained it this way:
My colleagues are saying Donald Trump won the debate, because in his absence the rest of the Republican candidates cut each other down. But Trump won the debate in another way: His absence from the debate appears to have hurt viewership, as he predicted.
Early numbers suggest that between 11 million and 13 million viewers watched the Fox News debate, which is about half of the audience Trump drew to the first Fox News debate in August, when the event drew a record-breaking 23 million viewers. (We’ll have more precise numbers later in the day.)
(My suggestion is to keep an eye out for those more precise numbers.)
And while CNN Money has to begrudgingly admit that Fox had better ratings than the rival cable stations showing Trump’s event, that means nothing:
So Thursday’s debate was bigger — but not by much. The other five GOP debates of the cycle have had household ratings ranging from 8.9 to 15.9.
That’s why Trump can claim victory. (His campaign had no immediate comment about the ratings on Friday.)
Actual viewership numbers will be available later in the day on Friday. Fox News likely had 11 million to 13 million viewers for the debate.
But one thing is ultimately unknowable: How many more viewers would have watched if Trump had been center stage?