Second Republican presidential debate draws fewer viewers than first, with 9.5 million watching

Republican presidential candidates participate in a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by FOX Business Network and Univision, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) (Mark J. Terrill, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

NEW YORK – The second Republican presidential debate this week attracted fewer viewers than the first debate in August, with an estimated 9.5 million tuning into Wednesday night's event.

The debate was the second in a row that the front-runner, former President Donald Trump, skipped to have the spotlight follow him instead of his distant rivals.

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Viewership was down from the 12.8 million who tuned into August's debate, which marked the first time much of America heard from the other Republicans hoping to take on Trump.

The 9.5 million who watched Wednesday's two-hour debate, held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, included those who watched on two Fox News channels, partner Univision and its streaming service, the Nielsen company said.

The television viewership figure is an estimate of how many people were watching the debate at any given minute. The debate was simulcast on Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.

The debate, moderated by Fox News Channel's Dana Perino, Fox Business Network's Stuart Varney and Univision’s Ilia Calderón, largely didn't include discussion of Trump, much like the first debate. But a few candidates, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, joined former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in being more critical of the former president.

Trump's first presidential debate in August 2015 drew 24 million viewers.

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