Yesterday, CNN held a town hall featuring Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz (I believe that was the order in which they came on). Not to be outdone, MSNBC put on a town hall featuring Donald Trump that took place head-to-head with the Ben Carson portion of CNN's town hall. How did it go?
Not all that well for MSNBC, actually. Politico reports that MSNBC came in third during the 8 o'clock hour (Trump on MSNBC, Ben Carson on CNN, no candidate on Fox): CNN came in second, while Fox News hit first. However, in the second and third hours, it looks like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz's portions allowed CNN to win the three-hour time block overall (MSNBC was still in last place). Don't get me wrong: MSNBC was happy to have Donald Trump on, because it got them more viewers. It's just that CNN was probably happier to have Ben Carson on at the same time.
This is not a "Donald Trump will lose the election because of this one simple fact!" post. What it is is a mild observation that Trump is not a magic bullet ratings bonanza. He doesn't particularly win his timeslot when facing off against Ben Carson and it can't be denied that a good deal more people wanted to watch Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio last night.
And, again, this will mean nothing if Trump wins enough primaries anyway. The history of politics is the history of many beautiful theories that went crashing on the rocks of Who got more votes in the election?, after all. But there's no reason to pretend that he's inevitable. Or even anything except currently ahead/ If these things were inevitable we wouldn't bother with elections.
PS: An interesting control experiment (well, by social sciences standards, anyway) tonight: Trump will on CNN doing the second half of the town hall rotation (along with Jeb Bush and John Kasich). It will be interesting to see the ratings there - and no, I have no idea what the answer is ahead of time. That's why I'm thinking of it as an experiment, even though that's probably the wrong scientific term to use...