Saturday, August 29, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He worried about TV ratings.

Because of the COVID-19 epidemic that is affecting the United States far more drastically than any other first-world country, both parties held "conventions" this year that were four-day-long prime-time TV specials. 

Nobody disputes that the two parties were trying to accomplish different goals. Democrats were seeking to expand Joe Biden's advantage with independent voters and anti-Trump Republicans. Moderates and high-profile Republicans like Ohio Gov. John Kasich were front and center, to the annoyance of some in the party's left wing. Trump, by contrast, was trying to hold on to his base of support, and it showed in the lineup: the biggest headliners, besides Mike Pence, were all either named Trump or dating someone who was.

The only real way to measure whether either party accomplished its goal is in the polls, which showed essentially no "convention bump" for either. Biden led Trump by an average of 8.4 points on August 17, the day the DNC opened, and leads by 9.1% today.


But Trump spent much of today reacting badly to the measure he really cares about—TV ratings, with which he is famously obsessed, even as president. The DNC beat the RNC three out of four nights, and Biden's acceptance speech was seen by just under a million more Americans than Trump's.

To be clear, TV ratings don't actually matter here. Very few voters are undecided at this point, and very few of those watched both conventions—because of the unusual situation, far fewer voters tuned in than in 2016, for example, when far more people watched Trump accept the nomination than watched Hillary Clinton. 

But Trump was unable to accept this, claiming against all evidence that he had, in fact, had more viewers. He lashed out repeatedly today at the numbers released by TV ratings firm Nielsen, insisting that they were "FAKE NEWS" and that his own self-reported streaming numbers proved he was, in fact, getting more attention than Joe Biden.

The RNC online streaming numbers, which can't be verified, were not released until after Trump started complaining about losing in meaningless TV ratings to the Democrats.

Why should I care about this?

  • It's bad if being president and having tens of millions of people paying attention to you still isn't enough attention.
  • Claiming you are popular doesn't make you popular.