The Nielsen ratings company says an estimated 67.2 million people watched the first debate between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, the largest TV audience for a presidential debate since 1992.
Eleven TV networks carried Wednesday night's debate live. Telemundo showed it on tape delay.
Nielsen says you have to go back to the second debate involving Bill Clinton, George Bush and Ross Perot in 1992 for a more popular presidential debate.
Four years ago the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin attracted 69.9 million viewers.
Nielsen says 11.25 million people watched the debate on ABC, 11.07 million watched on NBC, 10.58 million on CBS, 10.44 million on Fox News Channel, 6.88 million on the Fox broadcast network, 6.05 million on CNN, 4.73 million on MSNBC and 2.58 million on Univision.
On Friday, Mitt Romney had his best day in state-level polling since at least the party conventions, something that very probably reflects improvement in his standing following the presidential debate in Denver on Wednesday.
Two automated polling firms, Rasmussen Reports and We Ask America, released polls in Ohio, Florida and Virginia on Friday. All of these polls were conducted on Thursday, the day after the Denver debate.
In the Rasmussen Reports polls, Mr. Romney trailed Barack Obama by 1 point in Ohio. But he led him by 1 point in Virginia and by 2 points in Florida.
These are very good numbers for Mr. Romney as compared with the ones we were seeing recently, although part of that is because Rasmussen has shown more favorable numbers for him in these states throughout the year. As compared with Rasmussen Reports’ previous polls of the same states, the margin in Ohio held steady, but Mr. Romney gained 2 points in Virginia and 4 in Florida, for an average gain of 2 points among the three states.
The We Ask America polls suggested that Mr. Romney made much larger gains. He led in all three states in its polls — and gained an average of 7 points from We Ask America’s prior polling of the same states.
It is too early to tell how much Mr. Romney moved the needle Wednesday night, and the early evidence is more anecdotal than empirical: Volunteers in Nevada lined up before campaign staff could open the doors on Thursday morning, the campaign said, and larger-than-usual groups showed up to work at field offices across the country. The campaign said it added more than 300,000 new Facebook friends.
The $12 million the campaign reports raising in less than 48 hours after the debate tops the amount Mr. Romney raised in the days after announcing Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) as his running mate and the Supreme Court's decision to uphold a major plank of the president's health-care law. Sixty percent of the money came from first-time donors, the campaign said.
Mr. Romney's debate performance triggered additional volunteers for the GOP's next national turnout drive on Saturday. The number of people who signed up to volunteer to make calls, knock on doors and sign up supporters for Mr. Romney has shot up by nearly 63% since Wednesday night, campaign officials said. The Republican National Committee, working in conjunction with the Romney campaign and its various state parties, expects to contact nearly two million voters on Saturday and roughly five million for the week.The New Yorker weighs in with its cover: