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A certain occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. won’t like this: Joe Biden has taken an early lead over Donald Trump in the battle of the Thursday night town halls. According to early Nielsen data, ABC’s two-hour event with Biden drew 12.2 million viewers between 8 and 10 p.m. Thursday, while NBC’s one-hour sit-down with Trump averaged 10.4 million on NBC stations across the country. While these numbers show big audience interest relative to recent election town halls, and suggest Biden more than held his own opposite the former star of NBC’s The Apprentice, there are a few reasons why it is too soon to say definitively which candidate’s event drew the most viewers.

Joe Biden, Donald Trump are posing for a picture: Vulture, Getty Images and Shutterstock © Vulture, Getty Images and Shutterstock Vulture, Getty Images and Shutterstock

First, the two town halls didn’t air in primetime everywhere around the country. On the west coast, many ABC stations aired Biden’s town hall live between 5 and 7 p.m. PDT, but the early Nielsen data only counts what aired in primetime out west— local news or in some cases Shark Tank reruns. NBC’s Trump event, meanwhile, mostly aired on a tape-delay basis out west, but the Peacock network also simulcast Trump’s town hall on MSNBC and CNBC. The early data doesn’t account for those viewers, so Trump’s 10.4 million should go up, and perhaps by a lot. Biden’s own NBC town hall with Biden last week added almost 3 million viewers from cable, and that was off a much smaller base (about 4 million watched on the broadcast network.) Given these quirks, and the big advantage Trump had— his town hall last night ran on three English-language networks vs. just one for Biden— it would not be shocking if the final numbers show Trump out front.


Video: ABC News’ Powerhouse Politics team breaks down the town hall with Joe Biden (ABC News)

ABC News’ Powerhouse Politics team breaks down the town hall with Joe Biden >ABC News See more videos > SHARE TWEET SHARE EMAIL What to watch next