Ratings for Thursday night’s Republican debate on Fox News are looking to be, to borrow a phrase from front-runner Donald Trump, “yuuuuge.” In preliminary ratings from 56 Nielsen markets, the all-out brawl among Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich drew an 11 rating, which could translate to 19 million or so viewers once final numbers are tallied Friday afternoon. That would make it the most-watched debate since September 2015.
The last GOP debate on Fox, which aired on Jan. 28, drew an 8.4 overnight rating and ended up with 12.5 million total viewers. The last Republican debate, which aired on CNN and Telemundo on Feb. 25, before former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and neurosurgeon Ben Carson all waved the white flag — and, in Christie’s case, endorsed Trump — garnered 13.1 million viewers on CNN and 1.2 million on Telemundo.
The massive audience for Thursday’s slugfest isn’t surprising; not only did America anticipate the candidates would take off what remained of their gloves, it marked the reunion of Trump and moderator Megyn Kelly; Trump had skipped the previous Fox debate in protest over Kelly’s presence as a moderator. Though a clearly agitated Kelly kept having to bark out warnings at the candidates about not talking over each other or the moderators, the sharpest conflicts came as Trump turned to ad hominem attacks like referring to his foes as “Little Marco” and “Lying Ted Cruz.”
But what probably sealed the deal, audience-wise, were Trump’s remarks, a mere five minutes into the debate, about the size of his manhood, which lit up social media like a supremely annoying one-upper of a neighbor’s house at Christmastime.
Donald Trump just suggested he has a big penis. Off to a great start here at the #GOPDebate.
— Daily Intelligencer (@intelligencer) March 4, 2016