By Gary P Jackson
Roughly 70 million Americans tuned in to watch the 2008 vice presidential debate. As we wait for the big rumble in Kentucky I thought it would be fun to look back at that debate. Sarah Palin won the debate hands down by taking Joe Biden head on. Her debate style, just as it was when she destroyed her opponents in the 2006 Alaska gubernatorial debates, is to play nice while going for the jugular.
“Can I call you Joe?” Her first words to Biden.
The debate, thanks to Sarah Palin, was not only the most watched vice presidential debate in history, more people watched Palin vs Biden than watched any of the McCain vs Obama debates. Not only did this 2008 debate break the old record by over 20 million, it drew over 20 million more viewers than any of the McCain and Obama debates.
Nielsen’s television ratings confirm what polls and pundits are saying: the level of interest in this year’s vice-presidential matchup is unprecedented.
Thursday’s debate between Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Gov. Sarah Palin reached an average of 69.9 million viewers, making it the most-watched V.P. debate in television history. The previous record was set in 1984 when 56.7 million watched the debate between George H.W. Bush and Geraldine Ferraro.
This year the vice-presidential candidates easily beat the contenders at the top of the ticket. Last week’s debate between Barack Obama and John McCain reached 52.4 million viewers.
Much of the interest in the V.P. debate can be attributed to what the Web site The Drudge Report on Friday called the “Sarah Show.” The introduction of Ms. Palin to the national stage five weeks ago injected energy into the running mate race and Thursday’s debate registered a 41.7 household rating, meaning that more than 40 percent of homes with TV’s were watching to see how Mr. Biden and Ms. Palin fared.
Of the 11 networks that telecast the debate, ABC was the highest-rated one, drawing 13.1 million viewers. NBC averaged 12.8 million viewers and CBS reached 11.1 million.
The debate set new records for two cable channels that telecast the debate. The Fox News Channel’s audience of 11.1 million total viewers was its largest in its 12-year history. In the 18- to 34-year-old demographic, CNN averaged 3.16 million viewers, setting a 28-year record among young viewers.