About 32 million Americans watched Mr. Trump's climactic acceptance speech on Thursday evening on the major cable news and broadcast channels, according to ratings from Nielsen, released on Friday. Mr. Trump's remarks, at an hour and 15 minutes the longest in modern convention history, just beat out those of the previous Republican nominee, the decidedly less unpredictable Mitt Romney, who was seen by about 1.9 million fewer viewers when he addressed the party's convention four years ago. Viewership throughout the convention week was about the same as in 2012.
Last night on Twitter, Donald Trump seemed eager to boast about, of all things, television ratings. "The ratings for the Republican National Convention were very good, but for the final night, my speech, great," the candidate wrote. "Thank you!"
It was a familiar topic for the Republican candidate, who has said for weeks that the television ratings for his nominating convention -- packed with big stars like Scott Baio and an underwear model whose name I've already forgotten -- would be spectacular. As the New York Times reported, however, the party's gathering in Cleveland "did not live up to the hype."
To help put this in perspective, the Times piece noted that the first debate for the GOP presidential candidates, aired last August, brought in 24 million viewers. The second night of the Republican convention brought in under 20 million "across all the major news networks."
Adding insult to injury, for all of his interest in television ratings, Trump's audience failed to match that of a certain former POW whose service Trump was quick to denigrate.
Comparing convention to convention can be tricky because the number of nights do not always match up, but consider the size of the television audiences over the last three cycles for the Republican nominees' acceptance speeches:
McCain in 2008: 38.9 million
Romney in 2012: 30.3 million
Trump in 2016: 32.2 million
To be sure, 32.2 million people is a sizable television audience, but Trump had the night all to himself, with considerable interest in what he'd have to say, and the numbers fell short of what many expected.
On Friday morning, before the final numbers were available, Trump boasted on Twitter that the GOP convention was "one of the best produced, including the incredible stage & set, in the history of conventions." He added, "Big T.V. ratings!"
Maybe, but not that big.
There are competing explanations for this, including the possibility of viewer fatigue. But I also wonder if there are larger audiences for Trump confrontations -- between the candidate and rival candidates, between the candidate and protesters facing the threat of violence -- than scripted Trump speeches.