After Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joined Fox News for a town hall in front of a television audience of millions, others hoping to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020 are following suit.
On Wednesday, Fox News announced that it would host Amy Klobuchar on May 8 in the network’s second town hall of the 2020 election season featuring a Democratic primary candidate. Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign is also in talks with the network.
As a campaign strategy, appearing on the network makes sense. In early March, the Democratic National Committee decided to bar Fox News from hosting any of its 2020 presidential primary debates. The DNC cited a report on “the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and FOX News” in its decision, concluding that “the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates.”
But this decision potentially cuts down the reach of Democratic candidates trying to pick up votes across party lines. Holding a town hall on the network gives Democratic candidates another way to reach Fox News’ massive audience—the channel ended 2018 as the most-watched cable network for the third year in a row and drew its biggest prime time audience in its history.
Sanders’ Fox News town hall is so far the most-watched cable news town hall of this election cycle, bringing in more than 2.5 million viewers. Fox News took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post on Thursday to boast about those numbers.
And that kind of audience is a big win for lesser-known Democratic candidates who are up against the likes of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris—whose CNN town hall drew 1.95 million viewers—and Sanders.
“For what it’s worth I’d be happy to do a Town Hall on @FoxNews or @MSNBC. Or just about any other platform that would reach a large number of Americans,” Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang said on Twitter.
Representatives for fellow Democratic candidates Julián Castro, Eric Swalwell, and Tim Ryan have also said they are discussing holding town halls on Fox News.
But despite the objective success of Sanders’ town hall, not everyone was pleased with his appearance: some Democrats have decried candidates for lending credibility to a network they say is biased.
Only time will tell if crossing the blue-red divide will pay off. It depends on how well the Democratic candidates can sway Republicans who might be willing to turn their backs on Trump in the next election.