CNN Town Halls

Aug. 25, 2019 Nov. 10, 2019

May 30, 2019
Jun. 2, 2019 Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan, Eric Swalwell
Aug. 25, 2019

Apr. 14, 2019

Apr. 22, 2019: Klobuchar, Warren, Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg
May 21, 2019

Apr. 10, 2019

Apr. 11,  2019
Apr. 14, 2019

Mar. 20, 2019

Mar. 27, 2019 Apr. 9, 2019

Feb. 25, 2019
Mar. 10, 2019: Delaney, Gabbard, Buttigieg

Mar. 18, 2019

Jan. 28, 2019 Feb. 12, 2019
Feb. 18, 2019

An Early Look at the Candidates

updated June 3, 2019 - CNN's hour-long town halls with Democratic candidates (and potential independent candidate Howard Schultz) have provided viewers a good early look at some of the presidential hopefuls. 

The town halls feature in-studio audiences asking pre-screened questions on a range of topics in addition to questions from the moderator.  The conservative Media Research Center monitored the Mar. 18 town hall with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and found, "Out of the 31 total questions asked, 22 of them were from the audience, only three of them were from the right (none from Tapper), and only one of them offered criticism of the Senator." In the Feb. 25 town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders, 19 members of the audience including nine students asked questions on everything from college costs to climate change. 

The events have generated some news.  For example, in response to a question on health care, Sen. Kamala Harris advocated for Medicare for All, and when asked about private insurance she said, "Let's eliminate all of that.  Let's move on."  One story to come out of the Sanders town hall was the network's failure to fully disclose identities of several questioners (for example, one identified as a student also interned at a lobbying firm).  This prompted a lot of discussion online; for example The Young Turks devoted a segment to examining "Did CNN Sabotage Bernie Sanders' Town Hall? (>)."  CNN conceded the error. 

The network drew most criticism for holding a town hall with Howard Schultz, who was not even a candidate, on Feb. 12, while some of the lesser known candidates had not then been invited to participate in such events.  CNN did then hold town halls with former U.S. Rep. John Delaney, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Mayor Pete Buttigieg all on Mar. 10 in Austin in conjunction with SXSW.  On April 14 longshots Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang participated in town halls.  April 25 was a big evening with five candiates (Klobuchar, Warren, Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg) participating in successive CNN town halls from St. Anselm College in New Hampshire.

Several of the campaigns sought to build off the town hall appearances by organizing or encouraging watch parties.  Exploratory candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg, an unknown to many, received a very big boost from his performance in his March 10 town hall.  During and after the event his exploratory committee sent out a total of five "What People Are Saying..." emails, each loaded with favorable Tweets (+).

Ratings for the town halls varied.  The first, on Jan. 28 featuring newly minted star candidate Kamala Harris at Drake University, did very well, finishing first with 1.957 million average total viewers.  The town hall with Bernie Sanders, soon after his announcement, also finished first, achieving 1.40 million average total viewers (>).  The Schultz town hall at 1.012 million average total viewers (>) and Klobuchar at 1.139 million average total viewers (>) finished third in the ratings.  In April Mediate reported that the Gilibrand town hall drew "a paltry 491,000 in total views and 115,000 in the advertiser coveted A25-54 demographic."  And in May the Washington Post's Paul Farhi observed that from a ratings standpoint many of the town halls "have ranged anywhere from subpar to flaming disasters."

FOX News and MSNBC have organized a few town halls.  The decision to participate in a town hall on FOX was controversial Bernie Sanders was first to venture into FOX town hall, on April 15, and made news when he elicited applause from the audience during a discussion of Medicare for All.  Pete Buttigieg earned applause several times during his FOX town hall on May 19 and a standing ovation at the end.  Elizabeth Warren declined an invitation to appear in a FOX town hall describing FOX News as "a hate-for-profit racket (+)."  Kamala Harris also said she would not participate.

See also:
Gideon Resnick and Maxwell Tani.  "CNN Under Fire for Howard Schultz Town Hall."  Daily Beast, Feb. 11, 2019.

Paul Farhi.  "Pick me! A big field of Democratic candidates waits for a turn in CNN’s town-hall spotlight,"  Washington Post, Feb. 16, 2019.

Caleb Ecarma.  "CNN Fails to Disclose Democratic Party Ties of Questioners at Bernie Sanders Town Hall."  Mediate, Feb. 26, 2019.

Steven Gagliano.  "Warren's JSU 'Town Hall' closed to media, public."  News Mississippi, Mar. 15, 2019.

Nicholas Fondacaro.  "CNN Treats Senator Elizabeth Warren to a Cakewalk Town Hall."  Media Research Center, March 19, 2019.

Mediate Staff.  "Kirsten Gillibrand's CNN Town Hall Pulls in Rock Bottom Ratings." Mediate, April 10, 2019.

Paul Farhi.  "CNN loves hosting Democratic candidates in town halls. Viewers aren’t returning the affection,"  Washington Post, May 14, 2019.

Jan. 29, 2019

CNN’s Town Hall with Sen. Kamala Harris Was Most-Watched Cable News Single Candidate Town Hall Ever

Monday night’s CNN Town Hall with Senator Kamala Harris was the most watched cable news single candidate election town hall ever. The town hall averaged 712k among adults 25-54 from 10-11pm, easily topping all cable news competition.  CNN was also #1 in prime time in the demos last night. The town hall was moderated by CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent, Jake Tapper.

The Town Hall with Sen. Kamala Harris propelled CNN to 945k total day live starts across digital platforms on Monday, January 28. The day ranked #3 among Town Hall total day rankings on digital platforms. Monday also saw 23 million cross-platform unique visitors, 18 mm video starts and 84 mm page views for CNN Digital.

In total viewers, the Town Hall averaged 1.957 million, a +75% advantage over CNN’s prior four (1.119 million).  MSNBC had 2.345 million and Fox had 2.256 million total viewers at 10pm last night.

The post program, CNN Tonight with Don Lemon (11pm) also ranked #1 in the demo 25-54 with 422k, MSNBC had 336k and Fox lagged with 232k. In the younger demo 18-34, CNN delivered 99k and MSNBC and Fox tied with 39k.  In total viewers, CNN averaged 1.220 million, MSNBC had 1.675 million and Fox had 1.328 million.
Source:  Nielsen data 2015-2019, Live+SD
ed. note: The website FTVLive pointed out that a 2016 town hall with Trump did far better, observing, " while a good number (especially for CNN) it is still far behind the 2.7M viewers that tuned into watch Sean Hannity lob softballs at his BFF Donald Trump back in August of 2016."


Friends of John Delaney
March 4, 2019

Delaney Organizers to Host Five CNN Town Hall Watch Parties Across Iowa

DES MOINES, IA – In anticipation of John Delaney’s CNN Town Hall, organizers across Iowa announced five watch parties today, located in cities across the state. The CNN Town Hall will air live from Austin, Texas on March 10th at 6:00 PM CST / 7:00 PM EST.
SUNDAY, March 10, 2019:
WHAT: CNN Town Hall Watch Parties for John Delaney in Iowa
WHEN: 5:30 PM CST - 7:30 PM CST (Town Hall begins at 6 PM CST)
  • Des Moines: Star Bar; 2811 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines, IA 50312
  • Davenport: Sports Lounge at Modern Woodmen Park; 209 S. Gaines St., Davenport, IA 52802
  • Council Bluffs: Caddy’s Kitchen & Cocktails; 115 W. Broadway, Council Bluffs, IA 51503
  • Sioux City: John Delaney Campaign Office; 831 Gordon Dr., Sioux City, IA 51101
  • Cedar Rapids: Starlite Bar; 3300 1st St NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402
Delaney is the first Democratic Presidential candidate to have visited all 99 Iowa counties since 2008, and he has the first endorsements from Iowa Democratic County Chairs among any candidate in the 2020 race. He has six field offices open in Iowa, and has made 24 visits to the state.
March 6, 2019

Delaney Organizers to Host Six CNN Town Hall Watch Parties Across New Hampshire

MANCHESTER, NH – In anticipation of John Delaney’s CNN Town Hall, organizers across New Hampshire announced six watch parties today, located in cities across the state. The CNN Town Hall will air live from Austin, Texas on March 10th at 7:00 PM EST.
SUNDAY, March 10, 2019:
WHAT: CNN Town Hall Watch Parties for John Delaney in New Hampshire
WHEN: Sunday, March 10, 2019 from 6:30PM - 8:30 PM EST
  • Manchester: Penuche's Music Hall; 1087 Elm St., Manchester, NH 03101
  • Portsmouth: The Statey Bar And Grill; 238 Deer St., Portsmouth, NH 03801
  • Somersworth: Home of Rep. Gerri Cannon; 113 Indigo Hill Road, Somersworth, NH 03878
  • Walpole: Home of Tom Crouse; 192 March Hill Road, Walpole, NH 03608
  • Concord: Home of David Canfield; 169 Porstmouth St. Unit #190, Concord, NH 03301
  • Sandwich:  Home of Tony Wagner; Sandwich, NH (for address call 202-309-7010)

Pete For America Exploratory Committee
March 1, 2019
Host a watch party for Pete's CNN Town Hall

Hi there, 

Yesterday, CNN announced that it is hosting a town hall with Pete on Sunday, March 10th, at 9:00 pm EST. 

We are excited -- a national audience will finally be able to hear directly from Pete about his vision for our future.

All over the country, supporters are organizing to watch the town hall with their friends, family members, and other local Pete supporters. Will you host a watch party on March 10th, at 9:00 pm EST?

Hosting an event like this will be easy. The town hall will air on CNN, CNN International, and CNN en Español at 9:00 pm EST. (And if you don't have cable, you can watch on!)

All you've got to do is invite your friends -- we'll help you find some local Pete supporters to invite, too. 

If you can host a watch party to support Pete and introduce him to some of your friends, schedule your event right now:

We'll be in touch with additional resources and ways to make your watch party a success. 

Pete for America 

P.S. We're still on the road to reaching the DNC's 65,000 donor goal to make sure we're invited to the first debate in June. Make sure you're one of our donors, and then share with a friend:

March 6, 2019
When I take the stage on Sunday

Hi there,
This Sunday at 9:00 pm ET, I'm joining CNN for a town hall discussion from Austin, Texas. 
At the same time, supporters all across the country are hosting watch parties to begin building community around our bold vision for the future. 
Take a look to see if there's a watch party in your community: 
We have several goals for the weekend. I wanted to fill you in on them and provide concrete ways you can help.
First: I want to make you proud.
This one's on me, and it's sort of cheesy to say, but it's true. I want to make you proud.
Whether you are on our Grassroots Fundraising Team, share things on social media, are a donor, have joined us in-person at an event in your community, or have told one person about our vision -- I am so grateful. 
I hope that I make you proud of the work you are doing, and that you'll continue to be an enthusiastic member of our community.
Second: We need to expand our donor group.
This one we need to do together. We've said this here before but, the DNC announced that in order to be invited to the first candidate debate in June, we'll need to have the support of 65,000 unique donors. We're not quite there yet, and there's no other way to say this: I need your help. 
Third: We need to introduce new people to our bold vision.
The town hall will be the first time many people learn my name and hear about our bold vision for the future. It's certainly going to help build awareness but we know that personal outreach is still the most effective thing when it comes to talking about politics and our values. 
Will you share this on Facebook, and then text a friend who might need someone to prompt them to tune in? Here's some copy to get you started: 
Have you been following Pete Buttigieg? He recently launched a presidential exploratory committee and has a town hall with CNN on Sunday. I think you should tune in. It's 9pm ET on CNN.
Thank you for your continued support. I'm grateful to be on this journey with you. 



Cory 2020
March 27, 2019

85 Minutes, 22 Questions, & 1 Dad Joke

Booker outlines his vision for America in CNN town hall

Tonight, at a live, televised CNN Town Hall at Stevenson Auditorium in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Cory Booker outlined his vision for America and highlighted the important priorities he will take on as president. Cory touted his record of running toward tough challenges and outlined his priorities for a future where he will fight to restore people's faith in what we can achieve together and build a more fair and just nation for everyone.

Some key moments from the town hall:*

On why he is the best candidate: 
“The only way to beat hate is not bringing more hate. It's by bringing love and hope and uniting people to solve the persistent injustices in our country. I'm going to do that, and that's actually how we are going to win.”

On gun violence: 
“I am frustrated with politicians who all the best they can muster is to give thoughts and prayers. Enough of that. Enough of that. If I’m your president, we’re going to bring the fight to the NRA who wants to represent corporate gun manufacturers, more than they want to represent the people because this is what they’re doing to Americans."

On health care: 
“Now, the ideal in our country is that everyone should have access to health care. Health care is an American right, and the current system is definitely wrong. I believe the best way to get there is by having Medicare for all.”

On legalizing marijuana: 
“I put forth a bill in the Senate called the Marijuana Justice Act, which is about decriminalizing marijuana on the federal level, letting the states do what they want, but very importantly — and I'm hoping all of us, when we talk about marijuana legalization or decriminalization — in the same breath, we've got to talk about expunging the records of everyone who is still suffering.”

On faith: 
“Before you tell me about your religion, show it to me in how you treat other people.”

 “HBCUs are not just for African Americans. HBCUs make America stronger.”

On veterans: 
“We are the home of the brave, but when the brave come home — they don't get housing, the don't get health care.”  
Tonight’s town hall was Booker’s fourth visit to South Carolina since he announced his candidacy for president and follows his trip last weekend to Rock Hill and Columbia. Last week, Cory became the first presidential candidate to be endorsed by a South Carolina elected official when he was endorsed by state Rep. John King. And earlier this month, Booker also scooped up the Palmetto State’s first endorsement from a South Carolina Democratic Party official when Charleston County Democratic Party Chair Brady Quirk-Garvin announced that he would step down from his position as county party chair in order to fully support Booker’s bid.
*rough transcript

# # #

Rights & Democracy
February 21, 2019

People’s Priorities Are Front and Center at Town Hall with Klobuchar

At a CNN town hall on Monday night, four members of Rights & Democracy pushed presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar on issues that matter to all of us.

“Why can’t we have Medicare for All?” asked Pam Clark of Westmoreland, also a member of Monadnock Progressive Alliance. “I have heard all the excuses why we can’t have it in our country, while all the other industrialized countries have it and it seems to work. What makes us the exception?”

After several minutes of skirting the question, Klobuchar stated that Medicare for All is “something we can look to for the future” but she believes more gradual approaches are necessary right now.

Stand with us
Later, Rights & Democracy board member Griffin Sinclair-Wingate, also a leader in New Hampshire Youth Movement, pushed the senator from Minnesota on the student debt crisis. He reminding Klobuchar that New Hampshire students graduate with the highest average student loan debt of any state in the country.

“Would you be willing to stand with my generation and end the student debt crisis by supporting free college for all?” Sinclair-Wingate asked. “And would you include undocumented and formerly incarcerated people in that program?”

But, Klobuchar demurred. Policies like free college, Medicare for All, and the Green New Deal were too aspirational for her.

Just and healthy society
But the grilling wasn’t over. Rights & Democracy members Jodi Newell and Mohammad Saleh of Keene also had questions for Klobuchar. Newell shared her personal story of losing her partner to overdose and asked what the candidate intends to do as president to confront the opioid crisis.

Then, Saleh spoke to our society’s tendency to blame failure on personal responsibility, asking Klobuchar,

“Do you agree with the progressive view that a just and equitable society must be built with empathy for the unfortunate?”

Our issues in the spotlight
By the end of the evening it was clear that Senator Klobuchar was holding firmly to centrist policy positions.

But it was also evident, from CNN’s decision to take questions from four Rights & Democracy members, that our #PeoplesPriorities will be defining the narrative during the 2020 election season.

It’s our hope that we can help candidates like Klobuchar realize that their moderate stances on critical issues are not what the people of New Hampshire want.

Please sign on to our People’s Platform to join us in this important work in the months ahead!

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
February 23, 2019

IAVA Veterans to Attend CNN Town Hall with Bernie Sanders in Washington, DC

NEW YORK (February 23, 2019) – Local members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will be attending the CNN Town Hall Monday February 25, in Washington, DC. The event will feature Senator Bernie Sanders, who declared his candidacy for President this week. The diverse group of veterans representing the post-9/11 generation will be led by IAVA’s Legislative Director.

With Veterans Administration waste and abuse and Burn Pits highlighted prominently in headlines over the past two weeks, now is the time for any Presidential candidate to make his or her commitment to veterans issues known. VA Reform and Burn Pits are two of IAVA’s “Big Six” priorities, reflecting IAVA’s ambitious agenda.

IAVA recently released the results of its groundbreaking annual survey of its members. The survey is the best tool available nationally for gauging the interests and concerns of the post-9/11 generation of veterans. According to IAVA’s survey, the political issues most important to post-9/11 veterans are veterans issues, which they prioritized even above the economy and military/defense policy. IAVA is proud to enable its members to be present at events such as this Town Hall, to give a voice and a platform to the national conversation on veterans issues.

IAVA believes strongly in empowering veterans to challenge all current and potential future leaders and lawmakers to support the issues important to the post-9/11 generation of veterans. Almost every issue facing America is a veterans issue. From the government shutdown, to employment, to the opioid crisis, to our national defense, the voices of veterans are critical in understanding the challenges and opportunities facing the over 20 million veterans in America–and all Americans.
“IAVA and our membership believe that veterans issues are America’s issues. When we have a conversation about what is important to this country, veterans must be a part of the discussion,” said IAVA CEO Jeremy Butler.

IAVA looks forward to being a part of this CNN event and future events involving Republicans, Democrats or Independents. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the largest nonprofit representing post-9/11 veterans and their families, is an emphatically non-partisan organization. IAVA does not support any political candidates nor any parties. IAVA membership comes from all political backgrounds, and IAVA is inclusive of all viewpoints. IAVA encourages every network to hold similar events and involve the true voices of veterans at all public media events involving candidates.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 8,000 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.

Ken Croken, Scott County Supervisor added an event.
March 5 at 6:33 PM · 
CNN Town Hall Watch Party This Sunday, March 10
Like me, I’ll bet you’re pleased by the ever-growing field of excellent Democratic presidential candidates. But, let’s face it, it’s confusing.
Please join me on Sunday, March 10 in the Sports Lounge on the second floor of Modern Woodmen Baseball Park, a public, municipal facility, for a CNN Town Hall “Watch Party” featuring three presidential candidates: former Maryland Representative John Delaney, Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Broadcast starts at 7 p.m. Light snacks provided. “Cash” bar available. See you then.

More Town Halls on FOX News and CNN

June 2, 2019 Julian Cástro June 13, 2019

Apr. 15, 2019 (1, 2)
May 8, 2019 (1, 2, 3)
May 19, 2019 (>)

June 5, 2019

Mar. 18, 2019
May 28, 2019
June 3, 2019

A town hall with Sen. Cory Booker scheduled for May 23, 2019 in Des Moines was postponed.