A smaller-than-expected number of Americans decided to spend their Saturday night with Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, and Bernie Sanders, and the latter two campaigns are crying foul. Critics—both Democratic and Republican—have accused the Democratic National Committee of "hiding" the debates at inconvenient times to make Clinton's route to the nomination easier, Mediaite reports, and the 8.5 million viewing figure for Saturday's debate on CBS has added to the controversy. It was the night's most-watched program, according to CNN, but the viewing figure compares poorly to the 15.3 million that watched the Democratic debate on CNN last month, or the 13.5 million who watched the GOP debate on Fox Business last week.
"We can't fool ourselves—the Republicans are eating our lunch in terms of attention and viewership because of the unprecedented, unilateral, and arbitrary way the DNC chair determined this schedule," O'Malley's deputy campaign manager tells Politico. "It's clear we need to open up the process, have more debates, and engage more voters in this process." Politico notes that the next two Democratic debates are unlikely to pull in more viewers: There will be one the Saturday before Christmas, and one that will compete with the NFL playoffs during the Martin Luther King Day weekend in January. (This columnist thinks having little-watched debates could actually hurt Clinton's campaign.)