Feb 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Bloomberg drives record Democratic primary debate ratings

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Mike Bloomberg's first debate appearance drove ratings to a record-high Wednesday night, according to Nielsen ratings provided by NBC News. The debate averaged nearly 20 million live TV viewers across NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, according to preliminary numbers.

Why it matters: Bloomberg's highly anticipated debate debut drew contentious zingers from opponents who were eager to spar with him on stage for the first time.

The big picture: The previous record-holder was also the NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo trio, for the first debate the sister networks hosted of the 2020 Democratic primary. That debate broke previous records set last June with 18.1 million viewers the second night, and 15.3 million viewers the first.

Expand chart
Data: Nielsen; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

By the numbers: NBC News says that roughly 13.5 million people tuned into at least part of its live stream of Wednesday's debate, which also set records.

  • Previously, the most live-streamed debate was the first of this cycle, hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo, both nights of which drew 9 million live stream viewers.
  • The debate also saw record viewership of more than 5.3 million in the lucrative 25-54-year-old demographic.

What's next: These are just preliminary figures. The final number will likely be a little bit higher.

Go deeper: 4 takeaways from the Nevada Democratic debate

Go deeper

Warren and Sanders raise millions after Nevada debate

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Both Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders raised more than $2.5 million after their Wednesday evening debate stage performances, the largest post-debate haul of the cycle, according to their campaigns.

Why it matters: The Democrats targeted first-time debater Mike Bloomberg, attacking his campaign spending, past comments about women and people of color, and non-disclosure agreements with former employees.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Feb 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Bloomberg's rough debut

Photo: John Locher/AP

Mike Bloomberg was booed during his debut debate as a Democratic presidential candidate — indicative of a rusty outing where the former New York mayor looked unprepared to respond to obvious lines of attack.

Why it matters ... The debate underscored the Bloomberg’s campaign biggest fear: It's hard to hide to his prickly demeanor. Bloomberg had all the time, practice and forewarning money could buy — and still struggled mightily on the public stage. 

Bloomberg's debate backfire could seal it for Bernie

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Mike Bloomberg got into the 2020 race to stop Bernie Sanders and socialism. If he doesn't bounce back from this week's debate, he may seal the deal for both.

Why it matters: Bloomberg’s own campaign has warned that Sanders could lock up the nomination in mere weeks, thanks to rivals splitting the opposition vote. But Bloomberg’s own spending makes it harder for other rivals to cut through — and virtually assures he sucks up significant delegates.