Not bad for an infomercial

NOT BAD FOR AN INFOMERCIAL…. It’s not my area of expertise, but these seem like pretty good ratings for a half-hour infomercial in prime time.

The combined overall household rating for Senator Barack Obama’s Wednesday night infomercial, in the top 56 local television markets where Nielsen maintains electronic TV meters, was 21.7.

Obama’s simulcast is the first to be aired by a presidential candidate since Ross Perot ran a political telecast on Election Day in 1996. That program was watched by 16.8% of all households nationwide. […]

In comparison, the final debate between the two presidential candidates received a 38.3 household rating in the top 56 local TV markets. The candidates’ first debate on September 26 received a 34.7 household rating in the top 55 markets; their second debate, on October 7, received a 42.0 household rating in those markets.

The New York Times added that the commercial “was particularly high-rated in several battleground states,” including Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina.

At this point, we don’t know much about what kinds of voters were watching — was he preaching to the choir or were undecided voters tuning in to give Obama a chance? For that matter, we also don’t know if viewers overall liked what they saw.

But looking solely at the numbers, I’m left with the impression that there are actually quite a few Americans interested in politics this year. Think about — one in five households tuned into a political commercial, which lasted a half-hour.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.