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Biden, Trump to face off in first presidential debate

Washington, June 27: Will the two men shake hands when they meet on the debate stage? They didn’t when they met last for a debate in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak then. On Thursday night, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will have nothing to blame but the yawning chasm of ill will that separates them now. President Biden and former President Trump meet on Thursday night for their first of the two presidential debates on the 2024 election cycle, with both candidates hoping to make their case to the country for a second term.

An incumbent President is facing a former President for the first time in the history of the United States. A presidential debate is taking place this early in the election cycle also for the first time in US history, leading a long list of firsts. They are usually held in October, weeks before the end of polling in November. The two haven’t even had their respective presidential conventions for their formal nomination. For the first time also, a presidential debate will take place without a live audience to cheer or boo the debaters. Also for the first time, the debaters will have their microphones turned off when their allotted speaking time is over. Also for the first time, a debate will take place in a TV studio and not in an auditorium or a large space. Biden and Trump go into the debate with tied poll numbers, with the latter ahead by a very thin difference that is within the statistical margin of error. Trump is at 41 per cent and Biden at 40.9 per cent in the weighted average of national polls computed by FiveThirtyEight, a leading poll tracker. They are separated by 1.5 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls, with Trump ahead 46.6 per cent to Biden’s 45.1 per cent. Biden is hoping to use the debate to break out of low-polls that have dogged him for much of his presidency.

He will trot out the achievements of his administration that, the campaign has said, have not been acknowledged by the American people and defend himself on inflation, which is seen as the most significant failing of his administration and his advanced age, which is seen by many Americans as his biggest drawback. The Trump campaign plans to run two ads during the debate hammering Biden on these two issues, inflation and his age. “When you think about the Joe Biden you saw in the debate, ask yourself a question: Do you think the guy who was defeated by the stairs… got taken down by his bike… lost a fight with his jacket… and regularly gets lost… makes it four more years in the White House?” the ad voiceover says referring to incidents in which the President slipped or tripped and fell. “And you know who’s waiting behind him, right? Vote Joe Biden today, and Kamala Harris tomorrow.” Trump goes into the debate as a felon convicted of 34 criminal charges, with at least three more cases inching towards trial. While Republican voters don’t view his conviction as a reason for not supporting him, it’s the independent voters who will determine the race that he will try to appeal to.

The Biden campaign announced a seven-figure ad blitz on Thursday to frame the race as a contest between “a self-centred criminal to President Biden’s record of fighting for the American people”. Senior spokesperson Kevin Munoz said: “Today’s show of force in Atlanta and across the battlegrounds emphasises the two contrasting visions the American people will see on the debate stage tonight: between President Biden fighting for the American people, and Donald Trump whose campaign is focused on benefitting one person only: himself.”

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