Saturday night’s Republican debate in Greenville, South Carolina, which was moderated by CBS News journalists and a Wall Street Journal editorial board member, received the highest ratings for a primary debate since December according to the Nielsen Ratings.
CNN Money reported that this debate which ran from 9 to 11 p.m. (EST) averaged about 13.5 million viewers. It was higher than last Saturday’s Republican debate airing on ABC, which averaged about 13.3 million viewers. Although those numbers were nothing to laugh at, according to Variety. The ABC debate received the largest Saturday night audience for a non-sports program, which was the largest audience on that night in 14 years.
This debate, which had six GOP candidates present, also beat the Democratic debate, which had only two candidates, earlier this week.
Brian Stelter, of CNN Money, noted that these high ratings prove that Donald Trump and the other GOP candidates draw in more viewers than Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
In a transcript of the debate, published by The Washington Post, CBS News‘ John Dickerson asked the candidates and audience to hold a moment of silence for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who died the same day at the age of 79.
“Justice Scalia was the court’s leading conservative, and even those who disagreed with his opinions regarded him as a brilliant legal scholar,” said Dickerson, who noted that the candidates would be asked about Scalia, after a commercial break.
One of the first questions up was about who would replace Scalia on the Supreme Court.
“If I were President now I would certainly want to try and nominate a justice,” said Trump, who described his death as “a tremendous blow” to conservatism and the country.
Charles Krauthammer, a FOX News contributor, analyzed the debate, calling it “a thermonuclear war,” with the previous debates more akin to World War I or II, according to RealClear Politics.
“I think that if you counted up the number of times that the word ‘lie’ and ‘liar’ was employed, it would exceed the number of times it has been used in all previous debates,” said Krauthammer, who said this debate had the most personal attacks ever, with Donald Trump ridiculing former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and vice versa.
Krauthammer continued, “We went here from WWE to the UFC. This was a cage fight of the sort that I don’t think we have seen at the presidential level before.”
Reena Flores, of CBS News, noted that viewers witnessed Trump clashing with almost all of the Republican candidates on issues such as the billionaire’s conservative record and the legacy of the Bush family.
“Other White House contenders also exchanged jabs, with an immigration fight between Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz getting particularly vicious,” said Flores.
Hadas Gold of Politco, reported that moderator John Dickinson had “found himself in the middle of a raging South Carolina hurricane,” and that his questions seemed more conversational, than scripted.
“At some moments he threw himself into the middle of the storm, riding the current and challenging the candidates, said Gold, who called the debate both memorable and exciting.
Gold continued, “Other times he seemed to lose control, as the candidates ignored the timer and the crowd responded with loud cheers or boos.”
According to Variety, CBS News‘ debate received a 3.0 Nielsen rating among adults aged 25-54 and the viewership peaked between 10 and 10:30 p.m. (EST) with 14.6 million viewers. CBS News’ digital service CBSN also received high marks thanks to the debate drawing more than two million streams across different platforms. This week was also CBSN‘s most watched week with 5.1 million streams.
Despite all the hype for this CBS News debate, one Republican debate back in January, wasn’t so well received. It received the title of “least-watched Republican debate” by Time. Only 11 million viewers tuned in, but writer Daniel White noted that it was “still not bad historically.”
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)