Home North America Biden-Trump Debate Likely To Be High On Drama, Less About Policy

Biden-Trump Debate Likely To Be High On Drama, Less About Policy

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The Biden-Trump debate on Thursday, brings together two of the oldest candidates ever to run for U.S. president, for a televised show unlike any other. One accuses his rival of being unhinged and a danger to democracy, while the other accuses his opponent of being senile and corrupt.

President Joe Biden, 81, and former President Donald Trump, 78, are essentially tied in national opinion polls with fewer than five months until the Nov. 5 election.

But many voters remain undecided, raising the stakes of the Biden-Trump debate that will be viewed more for possible moments of drama than for policy discussions between the Democratic president and his Republican challenger.

Here is what to watch for in the first 2024 presidential debate broadcast from Atlanta on CNN at 9 p.m. EDT on Thursday (0100 GMT on Friday):


Both candidates may face questions about their fitness to serve in ways previous presidential hopefuls have not. Trump claims Biden is physically and mentally unfit for office, while Biden has called his predecessor “unhinged” and a danger to democratic norms.

Democrats point to Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters, his other efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his conviction on May 30 on 34 felony counts for his involvement in a hush money scheme to keep an alleged sexual encounter with a porn star from the public.

Biden’s mental and physical strength has been the subject of scrutiny and speculation as he seeks a second four-year term. Critics say he is slowing down and point to a series of verbal slip-ups. Allies maintain he is as sharp as ever.

Trump has regularly mocked Biden at rallies, suggesting he’s not up to the job.

The president’s age is also on most voters’ minds, including Democrats, and many viewers will be on alert for any sign that Biden – or Trump – is not up to the task. Trump has not faced the same questions about his stamina but has raised eyebrows with his tendency to go off on extended tangents and occasionally mixing up names and misidentifying Biden as former President Barack Obama.

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Both candidates are known for their tempers and impatience. They are used to commanding the stage and getting their way. Both have been president and likely see little reason to yield to the other.

“There is a lot of bad blood,” said Tevi Troy, a former George W. Bush official who helped that Republican president prepare for the 2004 debates against Democrat John Kerry.

Biden rattled Trump during their first debate in the 2020 race, leading Trump into what was viewed as a poor performance as the Republican repeatedly interrupted and bickered with the moderator. Biden went on to beat Trump handily.

Trump may try to get under Biden’s skin by mentioning the legal problems of the president’s son, Hunter, who was convicted of lying about his drug use to illegally buy a gun.

Trump has to be careful, too, not to turn off moderate voters with a bullying approach.

“You can’t be so aggressive that you are rude, and you seem to be trampling your opponent,” said Brett O’Donnell, a veteran Republican debate consultant.

Both Biden and Trump could be rusty. Trump refused to participate in the 2024 Republican primary debates, a decision that did him no harm as he easily beat all his rivals for the party’s nomination. Biden also has not been on a debate stage in almost four years.

Trump and his team were working ahead of the debate to temper expectations over his performance, arguing – without evidence – that CNN and its moderators, Dana Bash and Jake Tapper, are biased in Biden’s favor.

With Reuters inputs