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It matters to the people who take the trouble to watch them.

About 40 million people watched it on the regular networks, and after they add in cable news stations, it will probably add up to 52 million which matched or topped the 2008 presidential debate.
Biden/Palen pulled a bigger audience, believe it or not.

According to preliminary Nielsen numbers, about 39.97 million total viewers watched the first presidential debate on the broadcast networks last night. The debate was also carried by cable news outlets, but those numbers are not yet available. Once the cable audience is included, this should put last night’s debate in contention to match or slightly beat the audience for the first presidential debate of 2008, which was watched by about 52.4 million total viewers including the cable channels. However, it will be hard for this debate to match the highest-rated matchup of the 2008 cycle–the vice presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, which was watched by 69.9 million people and ranks as the second most viewed debate ever.
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