Strictly from a ratings standpoint, Mitt Romney‘s address to the Republican National Convention didn’t measure up to John McCain‘s nomination acceptance speech in 2008, based on data from Nielsen Media.

Romney’s speech adveraged 30.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen, easily the highest-rated night of the convention. Yet that fell about 22% short of the nearly 39 million who tuned in for McCain across nine networks four years ago.

Of course, that also means those people missed Clint Eastwood‘s “exceedingly strange” performance, so hey, their loss.

There are several ways to parse these numbers, and as the challenger, one can argue Romney has more to gain from all the free exposure provided by the conventions.

That said, the truth is ratings don’t necessarily signify much of anything in this context, other than perhaps an element of fatigue that’s already creeping into the current campaign. Moreover, with the web and wall-to-wall cable coverage there are plenty of opportunities for second-day viewing of the key portions of the address.

Finally, it’s probably wise not to read too much into the fact Fox News Channel performed disproportionately well during the GOP convention. To borrow a sports analogy, watching the Republicans on Fox is sort of like watching the home team on a local channel, with announcers who can scarcely hide their rooting interest. If history holds, CNN and MSNBC should both get a relative boost during the Democratic gathering.

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Let’s just hope President Obama doesn’t decide to lead into his speech by having Alec Baldwin interview a microwave oven.