Note: This blog's templates will be updated this afternoon to a responsive design bringing it in line with

At that time, we will also change to the Facebook commenting system. You will need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment.

« Couriel's latest mailer criticizes Margolis, but it's not what it appears | Main | With flooding and damage in the NE, will talk of a cat fund re-emerge? »

How much did the Bill Nelson/Connie Mack debate matter?

When Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson faced off in a debate against Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, it's clear they were both armed with plenty of barbs and quips to help fire up their supporters.

But how many people were actually watching? 

While nobody has compiled total viewership, television stations estimated that 42,000 people watched in Tampa and 32,000 in Miami.

The event was held at Nova Southeastern University on Oct. 17, and is the only time the candidates will face-off before voters go to the polls Nov. 6.

By contrast, former Gov. Charlie Crist, former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio sparred in six debates in 2010. Tampa station WFTS reported a viewership of 63,000 people during the second debate alone.

Ron Sachs, who helped the Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida put on the debate, said the event's impact went beyond raw viewership.

About 4.5 million viewers tuned in to either the debate itself or its corresponding news coverage, Sachs said.

"We calculated about $1 million in value of news coverage before and after," he said.

Polls suggest that Nelson is still poised to beat Mack, although the Fort Myers congressman has attracted more supporters in recent weeks. 

A Times/Herald/Bay News 9 poll released pre-debate, on Oct. 11, showed Nelson with 47 percent of the vote and Mack with 42 percent statewide.

Yet, a Times/Bay News 9/Central Florida News 13 poll released Oct. 28 suggests Mack is gaining ground, at 44 percent compared to Nelson's 47 percent.

The Oct. 28 poll only includes the I-4 corrider, from Tampa Bay through Central Florida. The area is packed with swing voters and usually predicts the direction of the statewide vote.  

Romney's numbers have also climbed in recent weeks, so the cause of Mack's bump is unclear.