The first round of Democratic debates last month set a viewership record. The first night of those debates was watched by 15.3 million people and the second night by 18.1 million viewers. At the time, DNC Chairman Tom Perez was thrilled with the outcome, pointing out that in addition to TV viewership nearly 9 million people watched the first debate via live stream. Last night’s debate was a different story. NBC reports the viewership for last night was a little more than half of the first debate, while livestream viewing was about a third as much:

Night 1 of CNN’s Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday attracted 8.7 million viewers, according to the cable network, a significant decline in ratings from the first debate of the 2020 election cycle.

The network also recorded 2.8 million starts for its livestream from the historic Fox Theatre in Detroit…

The broadcast Tuesday featured 10 Democratic candidates for president including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and was the second-most watched Democratic debate in CNN’s history, illustrating continued public interest well ahead of the 2020 election.

Maybe those are good numbers for CNN but clearly down quite a bit from what we saw last month (8.7 million vs. 15.3 million). The Hill points out that last night’s debate was up against the finale of “The Bachelorette.” I’ve never watched a second of that show but I bet it’s more entertaining than listening to Elizabeth Warren.

Still, there is reason to think viewership will be higher tonight. For one thing, less competition. For another, that’s what happened last time. And finally, it’s worth noting that tonight’s debate and the 2nd debate last month (the one that set the record ratings) both have one thing in common: Joe Biden.

Last night’s debate featured Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and a cast of backbenchers. Tonight will feature the Dems’ leading candidate plus a possible rematch with Kamala Harris who surged in the polls after sandbagging Biden during the last debate. So tonight has the big draw plus the big drama.

It’ll be interesting to see just how much higher the viewership is tonight. If it’s just a little higher then that may be a sign people are growing tired of all the candidates. On the other hand, if the viewership is substantially higher tonight, maybe even close to last month’s levels, that might suggest they’re really focused on wherever Joe Biden is and not as interested in everyone else. I’d take a big surge tonight as a clear sign it’s time to winnow the field.