It may be a rematch, but the Biden-Trump debate is anything but a rerun | CNN Politics (2024)


The historic rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is anything but a rerun, with their first presidential debate next week set to showcase a vastly different set of issues driving their bitter duel for the White House.

It feels like an upside-down lifetime ago since the pair last appeared together on a debate stage. The coronavirus pandemic was raging in the fall of 2020 and Trump’s chaotic presidency was at the center of it all. Now, Biden’s record is under the microscope in equal measure, even as he still presents himself as a safer alternative.

In the Biden-Trump sequel, an entirely new set of fights have been brewing on the campaign trail and in TV ads that offer a glimpse into at least some of the arguments likely to be aired when the two come face-to-face Thursday at the CNN debate in Atlanta.

To voters in Wisconsin this week, Trump delivered a stark warning about an unstable world and, in his view, an unstable Biden presidency, saying: “We’re going to end up in World War III with this person. He’s the worst president ever.”

A new Biden ad minces no words about Trump’s May conviction on 34 felony counts: “This election is between a convicted criminal who is out for only himself and a president who is fighting for your family,” the narrator declares in the spot, which is part of a $50 million advertising campaign.

Biden:President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. AFP/Getty Images Related article How Biden and Trump are preparing for their first presidential debate

The competing messages not only crystallize the theory of the case for the two rivals, but underscore just how much the country, the world and, yes, the candidates themselves have changed in the past four years.

From a violent insurrection and the lingering fallout over election integrity, to a new fight over abortion rights after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, to Russia’s war with Ukraine and boiling turmoil in the Middle East, to the very stark question of America’s role in the world, the 2024 campaign is about very different things despite the same candidates’ names on the ballot.

For all those distinct issues and more, the economy and immigration consistently rank among the chief concerns of voters. And inflation, a challenge that has complicated Biden’s economic argument, is sure to be at the center of it all.

Against that backdrop, Republicans and Democrats have both asked voters leading into the first debate: Are Americans better off now than they were four years ago? The question has become a Rorschach test for partisans, with both sides hoping their candidate can make a winning argument Thursday.

Rep. Mike Waltz, a Florida Republican, said Thursday that with the Middle East “on fire,” Trump can make the case that he left office with greater global security.

“That’s the thing you’re going to see coming out in this debate: What was the world like under Trump?” Waltz said on CNN. “And what’s it like now with chaos under Joe Biden.”

Democrats have countered by reminding voters of the disorder that engulfed the Trump White House, particularly during the final year of his presidency. A new Biden campaign ad, which is airing in English and Spanish during the Copa América soccer tournament, begins with images of vacant arenas and closed businesses.

“Four years ago, we were shut down. Stadiums were empty. Trump failed us,” a narrator says. “But then, Joe Biden took over.”

The age factor

Whether it’s Trump, 78, or Biden, 81, the winner will be the oldest president to be sworn in on Inauguration Day – leaving age and fitness for office among the defining questions in the race.

More than half of US adults say both are too old to serve another term, according to an April ABC News/Ipsos survey, 10 points higher than a year ago, though surveys persistently show there are more reservations about Biden’s abilities.

While Trump and his allies have spent months depicting Biden as a listless and dithering executive, they have lately engaged in a resetting of expectations heading into next week’s showdown.

Trump suggested Biden would be “pumped up” for the debate, before insinuating, without any evidence, that the president uses cocaine. (Trump cited the discovery last year of a small bag of cocaine at the White House – though he erroneously said it happened last month. The Secret Service investigated the matter and was unable to identify a suspect.)

Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden. Getty Images Related article Trump gets the final word at CNN debate after coin flip

And in an interview on the “All-In” podcast that aired Thursday, Trump said that Biden would be a “worthy debater” and that he didn’t want to underestimate him.

The shift in approach comes amid concerns among some Trump advisers that Republicans have set an incredibly low bar for Biden’s performance, just as they did leading into this year’s State of the Union address.

“Trump will want to position himself as the alpha and the more active, energetic, in-control candidate,” said Brian Bartlett, a Republican strategist who worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. “Somebody who is healthy and has vigor. We’ll have to see if that side-by-side matches reality. If Trump is making those points but Biden is having a good night, that won’t land well.”

Biden and his surrogates have addressed the candidate’s perceived weakness head on.

“Joe and that other guy are essentially the same age,” first lady Jill Biden told a Green Bay, Wisconsin, audience last week. “Let’s not be fooled. But what this election is about, it’s about the character of the person leading our country.”

For incumbents, public opinion can be punishing. Biden’s favorability has fallen 11 points in four years, with nearly 6 in 10 Americans now holding an unfavorable view, according to CNN polls from September 2020 and April 2024. Perceptions of Trump have changed far less, with more than half of respondents still viewing him unfavorably.

Televised debates – and their potential for history-making moments – have been a storied part of modern presidential campaigns.

Yet this showdown is without parallel as the 45th and 46th presidents seek to define their rival in what is the earliest general election debate in memory.

“That’s the challenge for President Trump – to stay out of his way and force Biden to defend the record of his last four years,” said Brett O’Donnell, a Republican strategist who has spent years preparing candidates, including Trump rivals, for debates.

“The challenge for Biden,” O’Donnell told CNN, “is to actually get under Trump’s skin and to make him interrupt and remind folks of some of the qualities that they find less endearing.”

CNN’s Betsy Klein and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.

It may be a rematch, but the Biden-Trump debate is anything but a rerun | CNN Politics (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Francesca Jacobs Ret

Last Updated:

Views: 5539

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (68 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Francesca Jacobs Ret

Birthday: 1996-12-09

Address: Apt. 141 1406 Mitch Summit, New Teganshire, UT 82655-0699

Phone: +2296092334654

Job: Technology Architect

Hobby: Snowboarding, Scouting, Foreign language learning, Dowsing, Baton twirling, Sculpting, Cabaret

Introduction: My name is Francesca Jacobs Ret, I am a innocent, super, beautiful, charming, lucky, gentle, clever person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.