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Biden-Palin debate could set a record for viewership

October 3, 2008 | 10:44 am

Palin_biden_k85ajdnc_400 Last night’s debate between Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin could rank as one of the most-watched general election debates since Nielsen Media Research started tracking the audience in 1960.

Preliminary ratings based on 55 local markets show that 45% of all households tuned into the 90-minute forum. That far outstrips the 31.6% of households that watched Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama debate last week.

The market where the vice presidential debate drew the biggest audience: Baltimore, where 59.1% of households tuned in.

The market with the fewest households watching: Los Angeles, with just 34.4%. (The bottom six markets were on the West Coast, where the debate aired at 6 p.m. Pacific time. Los Angeles viewership also may have been dampened because of the Dodgers playoff game, which started at 6:30 p.m.)

Nielsen will release final viewership figures this afternoon. It already appears certain that the audience for the Biden-Palin match-up dwarfed that of previous vice presidential debates. The record for a VP forum was set the last time a man and a woman faced off: in 1984, when 56.7 million people watched George H.W. Bush and Geraldine Ferraro spar.

-- Matea Gold

(Photo courtesy Getty Images)