People walk by the world headquarters for CNN on March 15, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

An irony of our time: Republicans are on their way to renominating the ultimate cable-news candidate at a moment when cable news looks feebler than it ever has.

Donald Trump brought some of the old magic back to CNN on May 10 for a televised town hall, handing the network a rare landslide ratings win in prime time. But it ain’t like it used to be: The audience of 3.3 million people at 8 p.m. was scarcely bigger than Tucker Carlson’s average viewership on Fox News at the same hour in the first quarter of this year.

And as we’ll see, that audience didn’t stick around in the days following. To the contrary.

“CNN struggles” is a dog-bites-man story, one that bubbles up any time the news cycle slows down considerably for long stretches. “Fox News struggles” is a different animal, pure man-bites-dog. If demand for CNN’s programming is highly elastic, drawing in casual news consumers as major events happen, demand for Fox is normally inelastic. Its viewers don’t tune in primarily to be informed about breaking news, especially in prime time. They watch to get their outrage fix. And the supply of daily outrage bait is inexhaustible.

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