By Benjamin Svetkey
March 26, 2009 at 04:12 AM EDT

If you needed any further proof that Barack Obama was indeed America’s Celebrity in Chief, a headline in today’s sealed the deal: “Obama’s viewership declines.” The story noted that POTUS’s prime-time press conference last night drew only 40 million viewers, “down 18 percent from his Feb. 9 press conference, and down 23 percent from his Feb. 24 address to Congress.” What next? Variety reporting on Obama’s opening weekend grosses?

The fact is, Obama’s ratings remain staggeringly high for any President jabbering about health care reform and bank bailouts — in a time slot usually reserved for American Idol, no less. As the story mentions, Obama’s March 22 interview on 60 Minutes pulled more than 17 million viewers, making it the fourth most watched show of the week, while his historic March 19 appearance on The Tonight Show (the first time a sitting President has done a late-night chat program) was seen in at least 8.9 million homes.

But never mind how you slant the numbers; what’s interesting here is that Obama’s ratings are being scrutinized in the Hollywood trades at all, right alongside those for shows like Dancing With the Stars and The Biggest Loser. The President has become such a gigantic, looming presence in the pop culture—even appearing on ESPN to share his bracket picks for the NCAA tournament—he’s now as big a showbiz figure as Simon Cowell. Normal presidents get evaluated by polls and approval ratings. This one has moved up to a much higher plane—he’s being judged by Nielsen shares.

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