The first 2020 debate, which kicked off the campaign cycle on Wednesday, garnered 15.3 million viewers, around 200,000 fewer than the previous record holder, the first 2015 Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Interest in this week’s debates — which featured 20 candidates over both nights — came as a number of Democratic hopefuls in recent weeks began taking shots at Biden for the first time, attempting to capitalize on recent stumbles by the former vice president. And Thursday’s debate proved worth the attention, as a number of clashes broke out on stage and the candidates were much more eager to attack President Donald Trump than those in the relatively civil first night’s debate.
The Democratic National Committee sought to avoid a “kiddie table” debate, in contrast to what the GOP had in 2016, by splitting up the candidates into two tiers based on polling and using a random drawing to determine the makeup of each night’s stage.
Thursday’s debate was still dwarfed by the first two GOP debates held in 2015, which featured then-long-shot candidate Trump and brought in all-time highs of 24 million and 23 million viewers on Fox and CNN respectively.