The fourth Republican primary debate aired on the Fox Business Network Tuesday evening, broadcast live from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The debate was split into two rounds. The main event was a debate among candidates who had an average of at least 2.5 percent support in the most recent four polls leading up to the debate. Before that was an undercard debate, which featured the candidates who'd polled between 1 and 2.5 percent. The undercard debate was noteworthy because it was the first presidential debate to feature two female moderators. In a boon for feminism, that debate drew impressive ratings (the prime-time debate broke several ratings records, too).
The undercard debate was moderated by Fox Business' Sandra Smith and Trish Regan, along with The Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib. The prime-time debate, meanwhile, was moderated by Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo and Neil Cavuto, along with The Wall Street Journal’s editor-in-chief, Gerard Baker. Many people praised the moderators of both debates for their well-prepared and thoughtful questions. At CNN, Brian Stelter and Dylan Byers wrote that there was "no debate" that Fox Business' moderators did better than the CNBC moderators at the previous debate. But the success of the two rounds is particularly noteworthy for the undercard event, since it proves that audiences will tune in to a debate with multiple women at the helm.
In addition to Regan and Smith at the undercard, many praised Bartiromo for her performance moderating the prime-time debate round. Bartiromo, Fox Business' global markets editor, was the first reporter to broadcast live from the New York Stock Exchange in 1995. Yes, you read that right — she was the first reporter to do so, not just the first female reporter. And Bartiromo, Regan, and Smith killed it at Tuesday's debate.
Clearly, the network did something right. The undercard drew in roughly 4.7 million viewers, including 866,000 in the 25-54 age range. According to a press release from Fox Business, that beats CNBC's undercard debate viewership by 188 percent. As for the prime-time debate, about 13.5 million viewers tuned in, including 3.7 million aged 25-54. Citing data from Nielsen Media Research, Fox Business announced that the prime-time debate was the network's highest-rated program ever. And that's not the only record the event set — the debate was the most-viewed livestreamed primary event. More than 1.4 million concurrent users streamed it, which is more than the 2015 Super Bowl's 1.3 million. (For a more comparable reference, CNN's Republican primary debate in September saw just 921,000 concurrent livestreams.)
The reaction on social media to Regan and Smith's performance was incredibly positive, showing that Americans are definitely interested in hearing more from female perspectives during this election season. Let's hope that Smith and Regan's historic debate is the first of many events to feature more female voices. If Tuesday is any indication, female debate moderators are a great asset this election season, and networks hosting future debates should include more women in their panels.