Obama-Romney Debate Attracts 28% More Viewers at 67.2 Million

The first debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney attracted 67.2 million TV viewers, 28 percent more than the first presidential face-off of the campaign four years ago.

The event, held Oct. 3 at Denver University in Colorado and moderated by Jim Lehrer, was carried live on 11 broadcast and cable television networks and tape-delayed on Comcast Corp.’s Telemundo, Nielsen said on its website.

The larger TV audience saw a debate that many Obama supporters judged disappointing. Seeking to hold his narrow lead in the presidential race, Obama yesterday went on the attack in his first post-debate appearance, accusing Romney of hiding his true stances. Romney made a surprise appearance before party activists at a gathering of the Colorado Conservative Political Action Committee.

The contest marked the first of three presidential debates scheduled before the Nov. 4 general election. Coverage on Walt Disney Co.’s ABC drew 11.3 million viewers, the most of any network, while News Corp.’s Fox News averaged 10.4 million viewers to lead cable networks, according to Nielsen data.

Comcast’s NBC attracted 11.1 million, while CBS Corp.’s broadcast network averaged 10.6 million viewers and News Corp.’s Fox Broadcasting network drew 6.9 million.

Time Warner Inc.’s CNN drew 6.05 million to its debate coverage, the second-most of cable channels. Comcast’s MSNBC drew 4.71 million.

2008 Campaign

Four years ago, the first debate between then-candidate Obama and Republican John McCain drew an audience of 52.4 million, according to Nielsen. The most-watched debate in 2008 was between the vice-presidential candidates, Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Sarah Palin, which attracted 69.9 million viewers.

Vice President Biden and his GOP challenger Paul Ryan meet for a debate at 9 p.m. New York time on Oct. 11 at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Martha Raddatz of ABC News is the moderator.

The next presidential debate is scheduled for 9 p.m. New York time on Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. Candy Crowley of CNN will moderate the event in a town-meeting format that will feature citizens asking questions about domestic and foreign policy.

The final meeting between Obama and Romney takes place Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. Bob Schieffer of CBS will moderate the discussion of foreign policy issues.

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