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It’s the smaller debate voters wanted. But will they watch?
An update on the television ratings from Michael M. Grynbaum:
Between impeachment hearings, football playoffs and the holidays, TV audiences for that other national story line — the Democratic presidential primary — have been dwindling.
Candidates and cable television producers are hoping that tonight’s matchup in Iowa can reverse the trend.
Last month, 6.17 million people watched the Democratic debate on PBS — a 66 percent decline from the 18.1 million Americans who tuned in for the second night of primary debates in June. The December event was easily the smallest live audience for a presidential debate in 2019.
But Tuesday’s event, sponsored by CNN and The Des Moines Register, is shaping up as must-see-TV.
Only six candidates will appear, the fewest this election cycle, which is good news for Democratic voters who have complained about unwieldy debates featuring up to a dozen candidates.
The Democratic Party is promising a two-hour-long debate on Tuesday, including opening statements, a tighter schedule than past debates.
To prepare, an army of CNN producers has spent 10 days transforming Sheslow Auditorium, an intimate opera house on the campus of Drake University, into a futuristic soundstage.
The building’s stained-glass windows will be integrated into the broadcast. Seventeen cameras, and about 5,000 feet of lighting and power cable, were required for the production.
“It’ll be interesting to see if the candidates feel closer to the audience and if that makes them open up a little more,” Mark Preston, CNN’s vice president of political events, told The Register. “Perhaps it will.”
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