From Talking Points Memo:
There was a significant drop in audience between the second and third presidential debates, according to numbers released by Nielsen Tuesday. Around 59.2 million people watched Monday night's foreign policy-focused debate on TV, down from 65.6 million who tuned into the townhall debate at Hofstra University, which focused more on domestic issues.I am actually pleasantly surprised that the dropoff in viewership from the second debate wasn't even bigger - due to the baseball playoff game, Monday Night Football, and the assumption that there are less undecided voters now and perhaps some debate fatigue. Having almost 60 million people watch last night's debate is great news - that's millions more than I thought would have seen a weak, inconsistent, and uninformed Mitt Romney and a strong, knowledgeable President Obama.
More Americans watched Monday's debate than watched the third presidential debate four years ago. In 2008, 56.5 million tuned in to the final debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. Nielsen ratings do not include CSPAN or online viewers, but do include the broadcast networks plus Telemundo, Univision, Current TV and the cable news networks.
The pundits are saying that this debate wasn't important, and voters don't care about foreign policy. They think that Romney still has momentum, and the Romney campaign seems to be playing up that storyline to look like they are winning. But we know the truth is that Romney is not winning. He's behind in the swing states that will decide the election. And Obama's turnout machine will blow away the Romney ground game.
Furthermore, last night's debate will make swing voters think twice about pulling the lever for Mitt Romney. He simply looked out of his depth and not ready to lead.
By this time next week, the full impact of this last debate will be reflected in the polls and the "Romney is winning" storyline will be destroyed.