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Tags: 2016 Elections | GOP 2016 | Marco Rubio | Donald Trump

Trump's Star Power Alters the Course of the Primary

James Hirsen By Monday, 10 August 2015 10:06 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

A seminal moment recently took place in the media as viewers tuned-in to watch the first GOP primary debate, which was held in Cleveland, Ohio and televised via the Fox News Channel (FNC).

The astonishing 24 million viewers that watched the debate made it the highest-rated cable news broadcast ever, the highest-rated non-sports cable program of all time, and the highest-rated telecast in the 20-year history of FNC.

Fox News drew three-times the audience it had amassed for any previous primary debate.

In the 2012 presidential election season, the cable channel rounded up a respectable 3.2 million viewers, a number that now appears minuscule when compared to the 24 million that engaged this time around.

The final tab is not only significant for news media outlets, but it is an amazingly high figure for television programming in general. The debates had viewership that was equal to or better than many marquis television events, including the likes of the "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" finale

(3.5 million viewers), David Letterman's farewell show (13.7 million viewers), and the highest-rated NBC Dallas vs. Philadelphia "Sunday Night Football" game from last season (24.3 million).

The debate was also a hit in the social media realm, taking the top spot for events on Twitter with 3.3 million tweets.

People both within and outside of the media industry are racking their brains to come up with a way to explain the unprecedented audience size. The following reasons are key to understanding how the political primary debate became a ratings juggernaut:
  • Fame. Trump is an extremely successful real estate mogul and business entrepreneur. In addition, he is a high-profile TV celebrity. Trump's star power in the business world as well as the entertainment world is enormous and continues on an upward trajectory. After 14 seasons (of combined versions) of his reality show, "The Apprentice," he is extremely well-known and is clearly someone who draws sizable ratings. The current iteration of his show, "The Celebrity Apprentice," was watched in its heyday by 20 million viewers per episode, and more recent seasons still clocked in at around 7 million viewers.
  • Authetnic star power. We undoubtedly live in a celebrity-driven culture, one in which the public frequently looks to celebrities with admiration, loyalty, and adulation. These days, however, many folks are famous for being famous, but Trump is unique, even for those who are under the fame umbrella. Trump's television fame has been built on a celebrity image specifically associated with leadership.
  • National angst. Working (and/or nonworking) folks are feeling it to the core, a heightened insecurity and intensifying fear. Problems with foreign entanglements, the borders, the economy, and the culture all seem to be mounting. The public is desperately seeking new leadership, and the double set of GOP candidates lent hope to society in short supply of it.
  • Human interest.The nine other GOP candidates who were on the platform have Trump to thank, in great part, for being given the chance to communicate their ideas to such a huge group of voters.
Many of the debate participants were able to significantly increase their name recognition, among other things, and what Trump brought with him to the stage beneficially spilled over onto them.

However, with this opportunity also came some complications. The GOP candidates are now divided on how to deal with questions from reporters on the subject of Trump's candidacy.

Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who in the past had spoken positively of Trump, is now publicly criticizing him over some of his recent post-debate comments.

Meanwhile Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio seems to have changed his opinion of Trump, but in a manner that stands in contrast to Fiorina's comments. Rubio, in the aftermath of some of Trump's remarks about Sen. John McCain, said that Trump's statements disqualified him.

On Sunday, however, while appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press, Rubio said, "We welcome anybody who wants to be part of the Republican Party. He [Trump] obviously has the poll numbers that justify him being on the stage."

As other candidates and political strategists have noted, Rubio also made reference to the fact that Trump is dominating the media coverage, saying, "I've made a decision here with Donald Trump, you know. If I comment on everything he says, I mean, my whole campaign will be consumed by it. That's all I'll do all day."

James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now. 


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Many of the debate participants were able to significantly increase their name recognition, among other things, and what Trump brought with him to the stage beneficially spilled over onto them.
2016 Elections, GOP 2016, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump
Monday, 10 August 2015 10:06 AM
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