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Biden and Trump are betting on debates to amplify each other's weaknesses | US elections 2024

Biden and Trump are betting on debates to amplify each other's weaknesses |  US elections 2024
Biden and Trump are betting on debates to amplify each other's weaknesses |  US elections 2024

 


The game is set for two presidential debates between two unpopular candidates that most Americans wish weren't running for the nation's highest office.

On Wednesday, during an exchange on social networks, Joe Biden and Donald Trump agreed to participate in two debates on June 27, organized by CNN, and September 10, organized by ABC.

Make my day, buddy, Biden said in a video, challenging his predecessor and rival to a high-stakes showdown. Trump, who had insisted for months that he would debate Biden anytime, anywhere, quickly accepted the offer: Let's get ready to Rumble!!!

This arrangement shook up a general election campaign that was beginning to stall. And if their plans come to fruition, Americans will be treated to a presidential matchup much sooner than usual before either candidate has formally accepted their party's nomination.

Candidates realize the value of debates, especially given their ages, said Aaron Kall, director of debates at the University of Michigan. They must show that they have the stamina to debate for 90 minutes or two hours to reassure the country.

The decision to face each other at least twice before the November elections reflects a careful calculation on the part of both candidates, convinced that the televised confrontations will help amplify the weaknesses of the other.

Trump has repeatedly called the 81-year-old president greatly diminished. At his rallies, Trump, just four years the president's junior, often mocks Biden, calling him confused in an exaggerated imitation that draws laughter and applause.

But Democrats argue that Biden can more easily draw a contrast with Trump and remind voters why they rejected his Republican rival in 2020.

We need voters to see Trump 2024 with their own eyes, Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg wrote Thursday, a much more extreme and dangerous candidate; whose performance is much more erratic, wild, impulsive and disturbing.

Biden is clearly eager for an opportunity to change the trajectory of the race, which has remained largely unchanged despite the start of Trump's criminal trial in New York, an improving economic outlook and tens of millions of dollars in advertising touting the president's record and blaming Trump. for the wave of unpopular abortion bans.

As both campaigns prepare for an extremely close contest in November, a series of recent surveys from the New York Times and Siena College found Biden trailing Trump in five of six critical battleground states.

Widespread dissatisfaction with his handling of the economy, immigration and Israel's war in Gaza has hurt the president's standing with key Democratic constituencies, particularly young people.

Even in a polarized media environment, presidential debates remain the SuperBowl of politics, Kall said, giving candidates what will likely be the most important platform of the election cycle. For both Biden and Trump, these events are high risk, but also potentially high reward.

Everyone expects the election to be decided by a half-dozen states. These states will be decided by thousands or tens of thousands of votes, he said. So a debate watched by 70 or 80 million people could certainly change enough votes to matter.

In 2020, the first showdown between Biden and Trump attracted 73 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings, while Trump's debate against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016 attracted 84 million viewers.

Many Americans will not watch the events live but will pay attention to reactions on social media.

Many people who don't tune into the debate itself will likely know what the debate's key moments are, said Yanna Krupnikov, a professor of communications and media at the University of Michigan. What happens next will really be extremely important.

Americans are arguably more familiar with Biden and Trump than any pair of presidential challengers in American history. Voters can still listen to what the president and former president have to say on major issues, like the war between Israel and Hamas. But Emily Van Duyn, an associate professor of communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who specializes in political communications, expects most will pay attention to how candidates perform.

For the most part, it's going to be an evaluation of: Can these guys hold up? Van Duyn said.

Democrats say Biden must deliver a forceful performance that reassures voters who are unsure whether the oldest president in American history is up for a second term.

Debate is the hurdle he must overcome, David Axelrod, former senior adviser to Barack Obama, said on CNN. He must dispel that notion in this debate.

Voters tend to express fewer concerns about the former president's age, 77, but Democrats say a debate could highlight Trump's tendency for slips of the tongue and verbal gaffes.

He also risks being put under pressure over his criminal cases. By then, the Manhattan affair should be over. Polls suggest that a significant share of Republican and independent voters would be uncomfortable voting for a candidate convicted of a crime.

The format poses different challenges for each candidate.

Trump feeds off the energy of a crowd. CNN said its debate at the network's Atlanta studios would be held without an audience, which was a prerequisite for Biden's campaign.

Trump turned off voters in 2020, when he repeatedly harassed and interrupted Biden during their first debate. He has to play to voters who like his policies but not his temperament, Kall said.

Biden, meanwhile, has built a political brand by defying expectations, as he did earlier this year with a rousing State of the Union address and during the 2020 debates.

. People will say he can't do it, that it's too late at night, Kall said. As long as he doesn't fall or forget something, people will say he did well.

The terms of the campaign deal, which bypasses the nonpartisan commission that has held presidential debates for more than three decades, were designed to ensure a face-off between Biden and Trump.

In a tweet, Robert Kennedy Jr., the independent presidential candidate who is unlikely to qualify for the CNN debate, accused the frontrunners of collusion to exclude him. Keeping viable candidates off the debate stage undermines democracy, he said.

While restarting the debate season creates an opportunity for an early reset, it also makes the events less existential for campaigns, said Tommy Vietor, co-host of Pod Save America, discussing the development on his podcast with the former White House press secretary. Jen Psaki.

After the September debate, there are still weeks to recover from a potentially poor performance or embarrassing gaffe. Although the momentum generated by strong results could fade before Election Day, early voting means millions of Americans will have already cast their ballots.

Psaki said the exchanges between Biden and Trump this week were part of a new approach. Whereas four years ago Biden was making sophisticated calls for democracy and civility, he is now using humor to manipulate his famously thin-skinned opponent.

It's about figuring out how to get the best needles, Psaki said.

In a sign of Biden's more pugnacious approach, the president opened public negotiations on the general election debate on Wednesday, the one day a week that Trump is not limited to a New York courtroom. I heard you were free on Wednesday, Biden said in the video, suggesting a date for their showdown. His campaign now sells merchandise that says: Free on Wednesdays.

On Thursday, Biden's re-election campaign also announced that it had accepted an offer from CBS News to participate in a vice presidential debate and proposed two dates for this fall after the Republican National Convention in July. Trump has yet to choose his running mate, but a carousel of Republican hopefuls have openly auditioned for the role.

A few weeks before the first debate, both candidates have a shortened schedule to prepare.

Neither has participated in a debate since their final showdown in 2020. This year, Trump declined to participate in the Republican primary debates and Biden, as incumbent president, faced than symbolic challenges.

In an interview with MSNBC this week, Utah senator and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney insisted that the debates were still important to voters and predicted that a large audience would attend the show.

As for what they would see, Romney joked: The image that comes to mind is those two old guys from the Muppets.

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