Republican Debate Audiences Declining, But What Does It Mean For The General Election?

Deadline ran the numbers, and with debates still to come tonight, on January 26, February 22, and March 1, 5, and 19, the television ratings for the Republican primary debates have continued to fall since December. Certainly, some of that is the result of candidates dropping out, as Deadline suggests. And as primaries pass, there are fewer voters who are using the debates to help inform their decisions, too. Certainly, it’s to the incumbent’s advantage to have the Republicans spending more time in environments where they’re not speaking from text and likely to get challenged in the run-up to the general election, which makes me somewhat amazed that so many debates got scheduled in the first place. But the ratings raise an interesting question. Would it affect the election more for bigger national audiences to see the most striking moments for whoever the eventual nominee is as they happen? Or if fewer people watch the debates, are those clips fresh and relevant when they’re recut for advertising for the national campaign?