Americans seem to have no interest in the Republican primary debates, even with two more of the mud-slinging spectacles freshly lined up by CNN for January.
Over the last several months, viewership of the debates has tanked. The first crowded debate in August hit a high of 14.2 million viewers, though those numbers have since plummeted, with just 3.2 million people tuning in to Wednesday’s debate between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Koch-backed former Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and biotech millionaire Vivek Ramaswamy.
The 90-minute punch-packed bully specials haven’t done much for any of the GOP contenders in the polls, according to aggregated data from FiveThirtyEight. As of Thursday, DeSantis’s and Haley’s numbers have barely budged; they continued to poll at a measly 12.7 and 10.6 percent, respectively.
At this point, it’s a scramble to gain an inkling of the attention so easily pulled by the GOP’s greatest showman, Donald Trump, whose strategy of outright avoiding public debates has proved effective among Republican voters—he leads the primary with around 60 percent of the vote, per aggregate polling.
To that point—Fox News’s sleepy town hall between Sean Hannity and a sluggish Trump was the most watched program on Tuesday, pulling just as many viewers as a full and formal debate stage, according to ratings released by the network.
If Americans are voting with their remotes, they’ve made it abundantly clear that none of the candidates on the GOP debate stage are of any interest to them.
Even DeSantis’s one-off, completely unrelated matchup against California Governor Gavin Newsom held more public interest than the most recent debate. Fox’s “Great Red vs. Blue State” publicity stunt, which saw the Florida governor thoroughly scorched and humiliated amid his own references to poop and science denialism, garnered 4.7 million viewers.
Still, faltering public interest might not be the only reason why Wednesday’s debate fell flat on its face. Droves of potential viewers complained online that they weren’t able to find it—perhaps unsurprising given that the debate was aired on The CW, the network most famous for airing Gossip Girl and the final (and worst) season of Gilmore Girls.