You may have noticed, along with news sources like Huffington Post and Vox, that the audience in attendance at the debate over the weekend favored some candidates obviously more than others. Donald Trump’s candid statements often receive vocal reactions from the audience, however in this debate, he pointed out that there was more of a backlash. He addressed this in the debate and stated that the crowd was filled with “Jeb’s special interest and lobbyists.”
This caused a series of publications to investigate how exactly the audience seats are filled, and it was confirmed that the audience was filled with an excessive number of Bush and Rubio supporters. The imbalanced audience accounted for more booing directed at Donald Trump and his closest competitor, Ted Cruz.
The Republican National Committee’s Sean Spicer explained how these tickets were dispersed; stating that 550 tickets were given to the state party and locally elected officials, 367 tickets were distributed by RNC proper and 100 tickets were given to the debate partners, including Google, CBS News, and the Peace Center. This means that over 1,000 were given as donor tickets, with only 600 or so left to be evenly dispersed between the six remaining GOP campaigns for voters.
Although, this 600 has been the highest amount of tickets circulated during this election, this just shows how candidates can stack the audience in their favor. Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, believes that the RNC should no longer let donors or special interests’ groups have access to the tickets.
“I think the RNC does a terrible job in allocating the tickets, to be honest with you, There’s an opportunity—there’s 2,000 seats out there, there’s six candidates on stage, they should just divide them evenly so everyone has them, but instead they just give them to the donor class, they give them to the lobbyists and to all the special interests,” said Lewandowski. “It’s not fair, it’s not equitable. So I think what they should do moving forward is take the total number of seats available, allocate them across the board and let the candidates bring their people in, because that’s who should be here, not the donors.”
Considering that Saturday night’s CBS event was the most watched debate of the year, the impact of the audience in physical attendance at the debate on the 13.51 million home viewers could have been particularly detrimental for Trump and Cruz.