FBN’s Republican Presidential Debate: Early Ratings and Reviews

By Mark Joyella 

Early ratings for FBN’s second GOP debate are in. The network scored a 7.4 metered market rating, making it the second highest rated program ever, following the first GOP debate in November. Final ratings, including viewership, will be in at around 1 p.m. ET.

As for the debate reviews, while Rupert Murdoch hailed the debate (before it started) Thursday night as “another great production,” reviewers seemed far more impressed with the punching and counter-punching on stage than the work of FBN’s moderators.

“The referees basically took the night off,” writes Politico’s Glenn Thrush. “The sixth Republican debate might have been the most consequential” but no thanks to the FBN moderators:

To say that the first debate of 2016, held in deep-red South Carolina and sponsored by the FOX Business Network, featured the lightest questioning yet was an understatement. There will be no post-debate whining about rough, unfair grilling this time around: Over and over, moderator Maria Bartiromo offered “thank you” instead of posing follow-up questions to filibustering candidates.

At The Washington Post, Callum Borchers argued the moderators let the candidates off too easy:

It’s easy to understand their desire to cover a lot of ground, and no one wants to watch moderators belabor minor points. But the sixth GOP debate suffered from a serious lack of pushback on important topics.

Slate’s Justin Peters described the South Carolina debate as “strange and loose and chaotic and inconsistent. The candidates were aggressive, while the raucous crowd hooted and booed as if the whole thing was a professional wrestling match…it was occasionally very good television. But it was a very bad debate.”

Mashable handed out letter grades to the candidates for their performance (Cruz led with an A-) and gave FBN a C:

Surprisingly forceful follow-ups in the gun portion of the debate actually got at the differences between candidates. Split time well. But not a lot of fact-checking and some questions were out of left field. And ran too long!

Conservative radio host and CNN commentator Hugh Hewitt credited Bartiromo and Cavuto for a “substantive debate,” while Glamour magazine writer Hillary Kelly called the FBN debate “spirited…much of the talk was policy-oriented, and the comebacks were actually funny (sometimes).”