Viewing figures for the third Republican presidential debate plummeted by almost 50 percent compared to the first just three months ago.
An average of 7.51 million people tuned in to watch the NBC News-hosted debate on Wednesday night, a significant drop from the 13 million viewers at the first debate, which many have attributed to the continuing dominance of former President Donald Trump.
The second debate, held in September in California, picked up 9.5 million, which at the time was a 25 percent drop from the first.
Trump has declined to attend any debates due to his commanding leads in state and national polls, leaving his challengers to fight amongst themselves in televised events that fewer and fewer Americans are watching.
NBC drew just 7.5 million viewers to its debate on Wednesday, almost a 50 percent drop from the 13 million who tuned into the first in August. The debate was moderated by NBC News’ Lester Holt and Kristen Welker (pictured together) and radio host Hugh Hewitt
The debate was marked by several hot-headed moments among the candidates, including former South Carolina Senator Nikki Haley (left) branding businessman Vivek Ramaswamy (right) as ‘scum’
Despite the dramatic loss of viewership, the Wednesday evening screening still delivered for NBC the most watched program in America that night.
This included topping the Country Music Awards which aired on ABC, with the 7.51 viewership figure combining TV, digital and streaming platforms.
Although total viewership figures were markedly down, NBC added in a press release that Wednesday’s debate was the most streamed of the election cycle so far.
The network’s struggle to reel in viewers came after NBC anchor Lester Holt, who moderated the debate alongside the channel’s correspondent Kristen Welker and radio host Hugh Hewitt, fought to control the audience after a hot-tempered start.
Following opening remarks by former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley that drew cheers from the crowd, Holt quickly jumped in to ‘caution the audience.’
‘Let’s not go down this road,’ he said. ‘We’ve asked you to please, you know, keep restraining yourselves… these are important issues and the voters want and need to hear them.’
Holt’s orders went seemingly unheard as shortly after, following a question about why the candidates on stage should be nominated over Trump, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy drew a loud reaction by slamming the ‘corrupt media establishment’ for ‘rigging’ the 2020 election.
At that moment, Holt again petitioned the audience to quiet down: ‘Audience, let’s not do this, let’s not do this. Let’s let the candidates speak.’
As the debate continued, Trump held a large rally nearby to cheering supporters, where he slated his challengers for holding an ‘unwatchable’ debate.
Former President Donald Trump mocked his Republican rivals who participated in the presidential debate as he spoke to supporters at a nearby rally
The debate squared off Republican presidential candidates (L-R), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott
Co-moderator Kristen Welker also caught the ire of the entrepreneur in a heated back-and-forth, as he accused her of peddling reports of Russian collusion with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
‘Kristen – I’m going to use this time because this is about you in the media and the corrupt media establishment, ask you – the Trump-Russia collusion hoax that you pushed on this network for years, was that real or Hillary Clinton made-up disinformation? Answer the question. Go,’ he demanded.
The NBC News moderator did not get a chance to respond as the audience applauded and cheered, leading Holt to again plead with the crowd to quiet.
Opinion columns after the debate largely named Haley as having a strong showing in the debate, particularly due to her confrontations with Ramaswamy.
In particular, Ramaswamy repeated his attacks on Haley as a ‘war hawk’ over the issue of funding for Ukraine, appearing to describe her as ‘Dick Cheney in three inch heels.’
Haley responded by quipping that her heels are ‘not for fashion, they’re for ammunition.’
The former UN Ambassador, who held the role under President Trump, was also embroiled in a hostile moment with Ramaswamy over the issue of TikTok, when the entrepreneur brought up her daughter.
After Haley joined her GOP rivals in condemning the Chinese-made social media platform, Ramaswamy claimed that her daughter was spotted using the popular app.
In response, Haley warned Ramaswamy to ‘leave my daughter out of your voice’, adding that he was ‘scum.’
In a touching conclusion to the event, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott ended months of speculation over his love life by bringing his girlfriend, realtor Mindy Noce, out on stage.
Tim Scott revealed that the mystery woman he brought onto stage at the end of the debate was his girlfriend, realtor Mindy Noce
In an exclusive poll after the debate, DeSantis beat Haley out of sight in the third Republican presidential debate on Wednesday night, according to an exclusive DailyMail.com poll of viewers.
In an exclusive DailyMail.com poll after the debate, viewers found Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to be the winner due to appearing to be the most presidential.
Viewers particularly noted his strength against Haley, who he has been battling it out with for second place in the polls in recent weeks after her campaign saw a surge in the polls.
In a head-to-head match-up, 56 percent of respondents said DeSantis performed better than Haley, according to a poll of 544 viewers conducted by J.L. Partners. In contrast, 35 percent said Haley did better.
And when asked who was best placed to beat the former president, 53 percent said DeSantis and 29 percent plumped for Haley.