We’re still waiting to see how much bounce, if any, the Democrats gained from their convention. But the television ratings are in. The Democrats had larger audiences the first three nights; the Republicans received a larger share for the finale.
The degree of the Democrats’ edge varied over the first three nights. On Monday, apparently it was about half a million viewers. On Tuesday, the Dems had approximately 5 million more viewers than the Republicans did on the corresponding day. On Wednesday, the edge appears to have been 1 to 2 million.
However, on Thursday, when the nominees gave their acceptance speeches, the tables turned. Almost 35 million people watched Donald Trump’s. For Hillary Clinton, viewership was around 32 million.
All of these numbers are, of course, estimates.
The numbers don’t surprise. The Democrats featured bigger names and bigger personalities the first three nights. As the mainstream media liked to remind us, the Republicans couldn’t match the “candle power” of Michelle and Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Bill Clinton. The gap was even more pronounced than it might have been because the Bush family, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich all stayed away.
Thursday featured two speakers Trump and Hillary. Neither is an easy listen. Trump, though, is far more entertaining and a much fresher presence on the political landscape. Naturally, his ratings were better.
However, convention ratings have no predictive value in terms of the election. According to the Los Angeles Times, a 2012 analysis by Larry Sabato found that the political party with a higher-rated convention lost the White House in seven out of the last 14 presidential elections.
Republicans won’t be unhappy if potential viewers were otherwise occupied when Ted Cruz gave his speech and was roundly booed at the end. Nor will they will be heartbroken if Ben Carson’s odd address and Gen. Michael Flynn’s rambling one failed to draw an sizable audience.
The Democrats will be pleased that the two Obamas were widely watched. Same with Bill Clinton.
As for Hillary’s address, the sentiment may be mixed. I suspect that many Dems might have been happy to rest their case after Wednesday.
There is also the question of who watched which parts of Hillary’s lengthy oration. John and I have agreed less than usual during this political season, but we both found the first third of Hillary’s speech — which presumably drew the largest audience — poor.
I wonder, though, whether Team Clinton filled the first third with mush for a reason. It may have figured that the initial audience would be dominated by Americans looking for a non-threatening and relatively attractive Hillary. That’s the Clinton may wife thought she saw.
These viewers were all but invited to tune out when Clinton ended the first third of her speech by accepting the nomination (my wife accepted the invitation). Thereafter, the speech would be pitched to those who follow partisan politics closely.
It was towards the back end that Clinton attacked Trump and laid out her aggressively left-wing agenda. By now, as I noted on Thursday, Clinton no longer looked non-threatening and relatively attractive. The mask had come off.
But I suspect the bulk of the remaining audience either didn’t notice of didn’t care. The mask wasn’t donned for most of them.
It’s not unusual for acceptance speeches to be divided into distinct segments. It is unusual for a candidate to change personas radically during the course of a single speech.
But Hillary Clinton, even more than Donald Trump in important respects, is an unusual candidate.