The year 2015 was brimming with TV events that in one way or another shaped the race for the White House. Though there are way too many to discuss in this column, let’s take a look at four significant TV events and appearances by politicians in the second half of the year that helped define the 2016 election cycle.
4. Trump hosts "SNL." "Saturday Night Live" had its highest rating in three years when Donald Trump hosted on Nov. 7. As noted in this column’s take on the appearance, no candidate has ever won the presidency after hosting the show.
Trump, however, has been defeating all sorts of historical evidence that could explain why his campaign won’t be successful. His appearance on the show was a case-in-point example of Trump’s success with earned media. Since the show, he’s been up about 10 points in national poll averages.
3. ABC Democratic debate. In the third televised Democratic debate, held on Dec. 19 in New Hampshire, we saw the crystallization of Hillary Clinton’s position as the general election candidate. Despite low viewership, topping off at 6.71 million, Clinton once again showed her poise and off-the-cuff abilities, also on display at her Benghazi hearings.
Poll movement is mostly flat since the debate, a worrying sign for Bernie Sanders with the Iowa caucuses about one month away. The stabilization in support gives Clinton the breathing room she needs to get a head start on her general election strategy.
2. FOX Republican debate. The FOX Republican debate on Aug. 6 drew in 24 million viewers at its peak. It set records for the highest-rated presidential primary debate in history, as well as surpassing all non-sports events on cable TV, ever.
Trump was already ahead in the polls in August, but Jeb Bush and Scott Walker were close behind. That quickly changed, with Walker dropping out around the start of October and Bush on a steady downward trend. The few days following the debate also helped cement the Trump-can-say-anything-and-maintain-support truth that is now widely accepted.
1. President Obama’s address to the nation following San Bernardino terrorist attack. On Dec. 6, 46 million Americans tuned in to watch President Barack Obama make only his third Oval Office address in seven years. In response to the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., he attempted to soothe fears by explaining how the administration would react both domestically and abroad.On the campaign trail, the speech was received with scepticism mainly by Republicans. The major issue for Americans, according to a CBS/New York Times poll taken shortly after the horrific attacks, is now the threat of terrorism. The campaigns have shifted to address that reality, helping Chris Christie rise in New Hampshire and throwing a wrench into campaigns focused more on domestic and economic policy.