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TV Ratings: Second Democratic Debate Tops First With 18.1 Million Viewers

The second Democratic debate, headlined by former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kamala Harris, has outperformed the first.

Thursday night’s debate, which featured fierce back-and-forths between candidates on issues of healthcare and race, was watched by 18.1 million viewers across NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, up 18% on Wednesday night’s tally of 15.3 million.

Both debates didn’t come near to the 24 million figure posted by Donald Trump’s first debate on Fox News in August of 2015. However, Thursday’s affair was the most-watched Democratic primary debate in history, easily topping the first Democratic debate of the 2016 cycle, which stood at 15.7 million viewers on CNN. The second debate scored 5.3 million viewers in the key 25-54 demographic, up from around 3.6 million on Wednesday.

Thursday’s debate had a more combative tone overall, with several candidates taking the opportunity to attack Biden, the frontrunner. At one point, Harris took it upon herself to intervene.

“Hey, guys, you know what? America does not want to witness a food fight. They want to know how we’re going to put food on their table,” Harris said.

Additional participants in the second debate included Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Michael Bennet, Rep. Eric Swalwell, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, author Marianne Williamson and businessman Andrew Yang.

The debate was once again moderated by a team of anchors and correspondents from across NBC’s properties, namely Lester Holt, Rachel Maddow, Chuck Todd, Savannah Guthrie and José Diaz-Balart.

Highlights from Wednesday’s debate equally crowded debate, which featured the likes of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Cory Booker and Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, included a tussle between O’Rourke and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro on the issue of decriminalizing illegal immigration, and back-on-forths between multiple candidates on income inequality and climate change. Many people who tuned in picked up on the fact that Castro, O’Rourke and Booker addressed the audience in Spanish during the broadcast.

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