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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The second night of the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 cycle broke records with 18.1 million people tuning in on live television across NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, according to a press release from NBC.

Why it matters: Executives were expecting modest viewership for the first Democratic primary debates of the 2020 cycle, largely due to the fact that a single candidate has not emerged as the standout media star. But debate viewership on the second night of the 2-day event broke records for the most-watched Democratic primary debate in history.

Yes, but: The debate may have broken records for Democratic primary debates, but it didn’t beat overall primary debate records. Last cycle’s first Republican debate, which featured President Trump on stage as a political candidate for the first time, drew a whopping 24 million live viewers.

Be smart: Media coverage and social media buzz after the first night of debates may have driven viewers to tune in for night two.

  • Sound issues on NBC’s end, and a fiery spat between Texas contenders Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former HUD secretary Julian Castro, also drove media attention to the event.

By the numbers: The second night of the debate brought in 18% more household viewers than Wednesday's preliminary debate, which received 15.3 million views via live television.

  • The ratings are calculated by media measurement company Nielsen, which determines live household viewership of television programming for most major networks.
  • Millions more people watched the debate via streaming, although streaming numbers are hard to compare to television viewing numbers precisely.
  • NBC News said livestreams of both nights of the debate exceeded more than 9 million viewers.

The bottom line: Interest in the 2020 election is alive and well, according to television viewership numbers of the first Democratic debate; but it doesn’t look like this cycle will draw Trump-level mega-interest like the last presidential election.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
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Vaccine passports could become available soon to help people resume their livesbut they face numerous scientific, social and political barriers to being accepted.

The big picture: Reliable and accessible proof of vaccine-induced protection from the novel coronavirus could speed international travel and economic reopening, but obstacles to its wide-scale adoption are so great it may never fully arrive.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate action on stimulus bill continues as Dems reach deal on jobless aid

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Democratic leaders struck an agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) on emergency unemployment insurance late Friday, clearing the way for Senate action on President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package to resume after an hours-long delay.

The state of play: The Senate continued to work through votes on a series of amendments overnight into early Saturday morning.

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.