Fox News really wants to have Donald Trump on its GOP debate stage tonight. After all, the last time the two teamed up with a podium and moderator, the political event became the most-watched non-sports cable telecast of all time.
Overall this primary season, debates with The Donald have averaged 17.3 million total viewers. Without Trump, the events have brought in just 6 million total viewers, on average.
We’ll spare you the math: That’s 11.3 million more viewers with the orange-haired billionaire, or almost three times as many eyeballs. As Trump would say, that difference is “Yuge.”
So, which debates has the ex-“Celebrity Apprentice” host been in, and which hasn’t he? Well, obviously, Trump has not done any of the Democratic events. Plus, the five lowest-rated GOP events were all the undercard for the crowded political party, so the frontrunner for its nomination wouldn’t have been involved at all. And while Trump has threatened to skip a few debates, he hasn’t actually followed through — yet.
Beyond the no-Trump factor, which has clearly had a ratings impact on the kiddie table events, it’s also important to note that time differences play a role in tune-in. Due to lower public interest and the candidates’ relatively smaller impact on the race, none of those debates have started in primetime, and only a few even bled into the main TV day part.
Other differences, such as a particular evening of the week and a specific host cable channel, also play roles here. Party and competition matters too: 6 of the top 7 events were all main-stage Republican debates.
Of course, with all the other top GOP candidates still in attendance tonight, and one enormous elephant in the room not there, curiosity factor could help Fox News out a bit more than usual. Plus, it’s still Fox News, and they’re No. 1 across cable news anyway.
Check out the graph below, which charts Trump-attended debates versus the primary season’s events sans The Donald.
The FNC GOP debate’s undercard kicks off at 7/6c, the main event begin’s at 9/8c — with or without Trump. Competing Des Moines event, Donald J. Trump Special Event to Benefit Veterans Organizations from