Washington (CNN)You can debate about who did the best — and worst — in the first Democratic presidential debate, which was spread out over two nights this week in Miami. (Trust me, I did just that; here are my winners and losers for the first and second nights.)
But what the first debate of the 2020 campaign season proved — beyond the shadow of a doubt — is that people are VERY interested in the race to face President Donald Trump.Thursday night’s debate featuring some of the brighter stars in the race — Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris — drew 18.1 million viewers, making it the highest-rated Democratic presidential debate in history. More than 15 million people watched Wednesday night’s debate, which, aside from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, lacked the star power of the second night.While those numbers don’t reach the heights of the first Republican 2016 debate, when 24 million people watched Trump make his debate stage debut, they are far higher than most estimates — mine included.
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What does that tell us? That people are engaged and interested in politics — even with almost 18 months left before the 2020 general election. It’s hard to attribute that level of interest to anything other than the current resident of the White House. Read MoreLike him or hate him, Trump has created a level of engagement in politics that we simply have not seen in decades. People who may have only loosely followed politics prior to Trump are now watching cable TV religiously (bless you — each and every one of you). The stakes have been raised by Trump. There were questions coming into this first debate as to whether some of that energy had worn off after the first few years of Trump’s presidency. The ratings suggest otherwise. People are watching — and in record numbers.The Point: If 18 million people watch a Thursday night debate in the middle of the summer with 10 candidates onstage, how many might watch an October debate when a) actual primary votes are only a few months away and b) the field has slimmed to only candidates with real chances at the nomination?Below, the week in 29 headlines:Monday:Trump considering a visit to Korean DMZTrump accuser: alleged assault mirrored ‘Access Hollywood’ claimsTrump won’t reveal his confidence level in FBI Director Chris WrayTrump thinks he doesn’t need congressional approval to strike IranWH says Kellyanne Conway won’t show up to Hatch Act hearingTrump says Obamacare ‘works at least adequately now’Pompeo does not raise Khashoggi murder with Saudi KingTrump signs executive order requiring hospitals to disclose pricesTrump announces ‘hard-hitting’ new sanctions against IranTuesday:Acting US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner to leaveTrump taps Melania’s spokeswoman as next WH press secretaryTrump: Attack on anything American will be met with ‘obliteration’Iranian pres says WH is ‘suffering mental disability’ over sanctionsBetsy DeVos faces new lawsuit over student debt forgivenessAg sec: Farmers ‘are one of the casualties’ of Trump’s trade warMueller to testify publicly on July 17 following a subpoenaJudge says Dems can begin collecting Trump financial recordsNYT: Ivanka, Kushner have ‘unusual connection’ with Chilean company owner that worked with admin to secure mining leaseWednesday:Trump claims Japan ‘doesn’t have to help’ if US is attackedTrump: Rapinoe ‘should WIN first’ before declining WH invitationHouse panel votes to subpoena Conway over Hatch Act violationsTrump says Pence is ‘100%’ his 2020 running mateTrump attorney: WH, DOJ not planning to block Mueller’s testimonyThursday:Trump’s suggestion to delay census prompts Democratic huddleSCOTUS blocks 2020 census citizenship questionTrump’s light-hearted warning: ‘Don’t meddle in the election’Trump accuser’s confidantes deflate efforts to discredit CarrollFriday:Trump-Erdogan meeting comes amid disputePentagon facing possibility of third acting defense secretarySubscribe to The Point newsletter for our daily politics newsletter (out on weekdays) and a special 2020 edition delivered to your inbox this Sunday night!