GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Ron Paul on Thursday had backed out of the planned March 1 debate in Atlanta, and Rick Santorum had not responded. So CNN went ahead and canceled the event this afternoon, saying its debate in Arizona on February 22 moderated by John King will go ahead as planned. The Romney and Paul camps ciited conflicts with campaign schedules ahead of the eight-primary Super Tuesday on March 6 as reasons for not attending; only Newt Gingrich among the four remaining candidates had agreed to show up. It would have been the 19th televised debate this presidential election cycle among the broadcast and cable news networks.
ABC News’ Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire last night averaged 6.25 million total viewers, 1.4 million of them in the 28-49 demographic and 1.73 million in 25-54. That was good enough for third place among the GOP debates so far this campaign behind the two most recent ones: ABC News’ December 10 debate (7.57 million total viewers) and Fox News’ December 15 debate (6.71 million). ABC points out that last night’s debate, anchored by Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos, aired against the late NFL wildcard game, which pitted Detroit vs. New Orleans. Here is a list of all GOP debates this season ranked by total viewers.
Net Date Day Total Viewers
ABC 12/10/11 Saturday 7.57 million
Fox News 12/15/11 Thursday 6.71 million
ABC 1/7/12 Saturday 6.25 million
Fox News 9/22/11 Thursday 6.11 million
CNN 10/18/11 Tuesday 5.50 million
MSNBC 9/7/11 Wednesday 5.41 million
CBS 11/12/11 Saturday 5.29 million
Fox News 8/11/11 Thursday 5.05 million
CNN 9/12/11 Monday 3.61 million
CNBC 11/9/11 Wednesday 3.33 million
Fox News 5/5/11 Thursday 3.26 million
CNN 6/13/11 Monday 3.12 million