Obama-Romney Round Two Holds Audience at 65.6 Million

Last night’s debate between U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney attracted about 65.6 million viewers on cable and broadcast television, holding almost steady from their first meeting on Oct. 3.

The town hall-style debate, hosted by Hofstra University in New York and moderated by CNN’s Candy Crowley, was carried across 12 networks, New York-based Nielsen said today in a statement. The debate outdrew the second meeting of then candidate Obama and Republican John McCain four years ago.

The size of the audience demonstrated the continued high public interest in the campaign. The two meetings of the candidates so far both rank among the 10 most-watched since 1976, according to Nielsen data, with Romney gaining in the polls after their first encounter.

The four major broadcast networks attracted 39.8 million viewers, while three cable news outlets drew about 21.7 million, according to Nielsen data released today by the media outlets. Nielsen counts a dozen networks including coverage by the Spanish-language Univision and Telemundo.

President Obama, seeking to recharge his candidacy, made a spirited defense of his record as he challenged Romney last night on taxes, immigration and Libya. Obama branded Romney’s fiscal plans “sketchy” and his social policies “extreme,” as he worked to put the former Massachusetts governor on the defensive three weeks from Election Day.

The Republican nominee, seeking to sustain a campaign bounce he has been riding since the Oct. 3 debate, said the president was mischaracterizing his proposals, and pressed his central campaign theme that Obama has failed to foster the economic recovery the nation needs.

NBC, Fox News

Comcast Corp.’s NBC led the broadcasters with about 13.8 million viewers, according to the Nielsen data. Fox News topped all cable networks with 11.1 million, matching a record for the channel set four years ago in the Joe Biden-Sarah Palin vice presidential debate, according to Nielsen data supplied by the networks.

The first debate between Obama and Romney attracted an audience of 67.2 million, counting broadcast and cable outlets, while the faceoff between Vice President Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan drew 51.4 million viewers.

Obama and Romney meet for a final debate at 9 p.m. New York time on Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, where they are scheduled to discuss foreign policy. Bob Schieffer, host of “Face the Nation” on CBS, will moderate.

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