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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

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

How Biden might tackle the Iran deal

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Four more years of President Trump would almost certainly kill the Iran nuclear deal — but the election of Joe Biden wouldn’t necessarily save it.

The big picture: Rescuing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is near the top of Biden's foreign policy priority list. He says he'd re-enter the deal once Iran returns to compliance, and use it as the basis on which to negotiate a broader and longer-lasting deal with Iran.

Kamala Harris, the new left's insider

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images     

Progressive leaders see Sen. Kamala Harris, if she's elected vice president, as their conduit to a post-Biden Democratic Party where the power will be in younger, more diverse and more liberal hands.

  • Why it matters: The party's rising left sees Harris as the best hope for penetrating Joe Biden's older, largely white inner circle.

If Biden wins, Harris will become the first woman, first Black American and first Indian American to serve as a U.S. vice president — and would instantly be seen as the first in line for the presidency should Biden decide against seeking a second term.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record.
  2. Politics: States beg for Warp Speed billions.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.