The town hall ratings are in, and Trump completely miscalculated by backing out of the debate

President Donald Trump sits and speaks with moderator Savannah Guthrie after an NBC News town hall event at the Perez Art Museum in Miami.Brendan Smialowski / AFP via
  • President Donald Trump dropped out of the second presidential debate after it was switched from in-person to virtual following his positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
  • Instead, Trump appeared at a town hall which was hosted by NBC at the same time as Democratic nominee Joe Biden's on ABC News.

After testing positive for COVID-19, President Donald Trump announced a new plan: Instead of participating in a virtual second presidential debate against Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Trump would appear at a town hall at the same time as his opponent.

The move was clearly a risky one for the president and his campaign, and following the publication of Nielsen television ratings by CNN Business, it's obvious that Trump made a mistake by forgoing the second debate.

According to CNN, Biden's town hall on ABC drew in 13.9 million viewers. The Trump town hall was broadcast on three channels -- NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC -- and brought in 13 million viewers, or about 1 million fewer than Biden's. These numbers do not take into account online streams for the events, so the final number for both town is likely higher. Advertisement

Before the town halls began, Trump campaign senior advisor Jason Miller predicted, "We're gonna have a much bigger audience than Joe."

Miller was wrong, and there may not be enough time to turn the campaign around.

With 18 days left until election day, Trump trails Biden by 10.5 points, according to a national polling average from FiveThirtyEight.
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Trump needed to be seen by as many potential voters as possible on Thursday night. Instead of an audience of over 60 million, the number of people who watched the second presidential debate in 2016, Trump squandered the opportunity and was seen by just 13 million.

Following the first presidential debate, Biden gained 5 to 7 percentage points in the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Florida, according to polling from the New York Times and Siena College. While Trump can't afford a similar drop in the polls from a second debate this close to election day, now is not the time for the trailing campaign to limit its audience. For Trump to be reelected, he needs to win over any undecided voters, and quickly.Advertisement

As of October 16, over 22 million people have already cast their votes through mail-in and early voting in an election expected to receive the most mailed votes in US history. At this point in 2016, less than a month away from the election, only 1.4 million mail-in votes had been cast. According to voting rights experts, voting by mail is expected to make up 50% to 70% of the total vote in November.

With barely any time until the election, longtime supporters of the president in Congress and Trump officials are beginning to blame one another for these campaign missteps. But as one Republican close to the president's campaign told Insider, "The one person to blame for all this is Donald J. Trump."

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