I don't think Chris Matthews still gets that thrill up his leg. Tuesday night's beating wasn't only for the Obama administration, but MSNBC. Anyway you dice the Nielsen points -- by demo, by daypart, and most of all, by total viewers -- MSNBC took a shellacking Tuesday. And not just by Fox News, either.
CNN, running a poor third (and sometimes even fourth behind corporate cousin HLN) the past several months, rose up to pound MSNBC Tuesday. The biggest margin between the two was during the most important part of the day, the 8-to-11 p.m. primetime slot: CNN had 2.4 million viewers to MSNBC's 1.9 million. In the 25-to-54 age demo that cable news channels value, CNN has 1.03 million to MSNBC's 669,000. The same pattern repeated itself all day long.
The strong suggestion is that when left-leaning viewers want run-of-the-mill ranting, they tune in MSNBC, but when there's actual news, they switch to CNN. Or maybe Fox News, which as usual had a bigger audience Tuesday than the other two networks combined. The Fox News audience during primetime was a gigantic seven million viewers, with 2.2 million in the demo.
All these numbers are preliminary and could change slightly when Nielsen releases final figures later Wednesday. But the message they carry won't.
UPDATE, 5:30 p.m. Thursday: Turns out Fox News wasn't just the most-watched cable new channel on Election Night, it was the most watched coverage, period. It bested ABC (6.8 million viewers), NBC 6.4 million) and CBS (5.9 million) in the various periods between 9 and 11 p.m. when the broadcast networks dropped entertainment shows to cover the election. The Fox broadcasting network, which offered election coverage from 9 to 10 p.m. hosted by Fox News' Shepard Smith, drew 2.8 million viewers.