CHARLESTON, SC – Tuesday night’s Democratic Debate delivered a ratings victory for CBS News. According to the Nielsen company, the debate was watched by 15.34 million viewers across CBS, BET and BET Her from 8:00 PM to 10:08 PM, the most network viewers in the 2020 Presidential election cycle. Moreover, a record 14.78 million viewers with 3.85 million adults in the 25-54 demographic watched the debate on the CBS Television Network. BET and BET Her, subsidiaries of ViacomCBS, delivered an additional 556,000 viewers with 210,000 in the coveted adult 25-54 demographic. That’s where the party ended for CBS.
However, as the seven candidates fought for their political lives Tuesday night, moderators Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell appeared to be nothing more than substitute teachers attempting to control rambunctious school children.
The debate was marred by candidates over-talking one another, exchanging barbs and the moderators weren’t able to exert control.
“This is way worse than any bad day at ‘The View,’” tweeted that show’s Meghan McCain, no stranger to verbal brawls.
After the first commercial break, it seemed King and O’Donnell appeared to regain order, sort of.
“These are good journalists, every one of them,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, who produced debates at NBC News and is now dean of the communication school at Hofstra University. “But being a journalist and being a debate moderator are different functions. And they did not do a good job.”
Among the topics discussed were the candidates’ ability to handle the Coronavirus, the future of the filibuster, banning of soft drinks, relocation of the American embassy in Israel (and the conjoined conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians), Russia interference in the election, Bernie’s status as a front runner, redlining and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s stance on stop-and-frisk.
“Can anyone imagine moderate Republicans voting for him?” former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg asked. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar noted that Sanders’ proposals cost $60 trillion — triple the U.S. economy. “The math does not add up,” she warned.
Senator Elizabeth Warren let everyone know the reason Bernie Sanders is the front-runner is because progressive politics is winning.
“Bernie and I agree on a lot of things,” she said. “But I think I would make a better president than Bernie.”
Obama handled Ebola.— The Atlanta Voice (@theatlantavoice) February 26, 2020
Therefore, Biden says he can be trusted to handle the Coronavirus. #DemDebate #TheAtlantaVoice #SCPrimary
Surprisingly, the moderators did not ask about the Supreme Court or President Trump appointing less-than-qualified individuals to the federal courts, no questions regarding Black home ownership, which is the lowest since 1968, and there were no questions regarding the rise of hate crimes under the Trump administration. Less than 1500 feet from the Gaillard Center is the Mother Emanuel AME Church, where nine souls were murdered by Dylan Roof on June 17, 2015. Instead, the debate devolved into more shouting matches that yielded riveting television and great zingers.
Warren went after Bloomberg over an accusation from a former employee who said the former New York City mayor told her to “kill it” when he found out she was pregnant. Bloomberg denied it: “I’m sorry if she heard what she thought she heard.”
Meanwhile, Senator Amy Klobuchar struggled to break through the morass of thought when she was asked how she would combat Coronavirus.
“I’m not going to give my campaign website,” Klobuchar said. Instead, she pointed viewers to CDC.gov, the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These photographers ALMOST RAN OVER @SenWarren inside the spin room! #TheAtlantaVoice #DemDebate2020 pic.twitter.com/gEyVRZlbnz— The Atlanta Voice (@theatlantavoice) February 26, 2020
Conversely, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s support is overwhelmingly white and is overwhelmingly problematic because he has struggled courting Black voters. Even though, Buttigieg was able to answer every question in a calm, cool and collected manner, the states that lie ahead of him are more reflective of the Democratic base overall, compared to Iowa and New Hampshire.
As the night wore on, Biden snatched every chance Klobuchar, Tom Steyer and Buttigieg had of moving towards the center. For example, Steyer told everyone he spent his career and his political activists fighting for, among other things, “racial justice.” But Biden attacked him for his investments in private prisons.
At the end of the debate, O’Donnell prematurely declared the evening over, because CBS missed a commercial break.
“That concludes our debate —” O’Donnell told viewers confidently, before stopping herself. A brief silence ensued before her fellow moderator jumped in. “No, no, we have time for one more break, Norah, one more break,” King said, offering viewers an apologetic, this-stuff-happens grin. “Time flies when you’re having fun.”
The debate was rambunctious and following the contentious debate in Las Vegas last Wednesday, it was clear the voters in South Carolina and the twenty-one states that will vote in Super Tuesday will have a clear palette to chose from.