Democratic debate lands big ratings with 15.3M viewers for CBS

Last debate before Super Tuesday 2020 draws millions of viewers

CBS appears to have set a new primary season record for its Tuesday night debate ratings, and the full tally of viewers hasn’t been counted yet.

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An average of 15.3 million people watched the South Carolina Democratic Party presidential primary debate on CBS, Deadline reported, citing Nielsen ratings data. That amount doesn’t count the viewers who watched the debate on BET’s simulcast.

Democratic presidential candidates participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate at the Gaillard Center, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, S.C., co-hosted by CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. (AP Photo/Patrick Sema

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The CBS ratings figure is even higher than NBC's ratings a week earlier for its debate in Las Vegas. More than 12.1 million viewers tuned in for that event, and another 7.7 million people watched on MSNBC. Together, that set a record for the primary season, according to the report.

But with BET’s ratings still to be added to the early numbers, the South Carolina debate will be even higher, according to the report.

CBS News’s post-debate coverage had 5.5 million viewers, according to the report.

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Democratic presidential candidates stand on stage before a Democratic presidential primary debate, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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Tuesday’s event was the final debate before the South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday, when voters in 14 states hit the primary polls.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who went into the event as the winner of the Nevada primary, was the top target for his fellow candidates. But Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren criticized former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and there were numerous potshots between candidates throughout the event.

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