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The Biden-Trump debate may be the weirdest yet

Muted, but not silenced. Credit: Getty

June 27, 2024 - 10:00am

Tonight, Donald Trump and Joe Biden will face off in the first of two debates before either of them has even been officially nominated by his party. The timing is strange — these events have typically been held later in the year, after the hoopla of the party conventions and when more voters are paying attention. But Trump boasted that he would debate Biden “anytime, anyplace,” and the White House incumbent took advantage of that by proposing a friendly venue (CNN) and the earliest possible time.

Both campaigns also saw fit to abandon the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has organised these events since 1988. Republicans had long been annoyed at the Commission’s perceived bias, dating back to CNN anchor Candy Crowley’s impromptu (and incorrect) fact-check of Mitt Romney in 2012. Democrats were angered that Fox News’s Chris Wallace didn’t fact-check Trump enough in 2020. So they’re free-styling this time, and CNN has jumped in to fill the void.

Often, the presidential debate is the first prolonged, mostly unscripted introduction that many Americans have to the candidates. That will not be the case here. Biden and Trump have each served a term as president, making them better-known than the typical nominee, and each has been campaigning for some time now.

Oddly, it is the sitting President who has the most to gain from this debate. Almost since his presidency began, Biden has been plagued by rumours that he is too old and enfeebled for the job. This event will put those rumours to the test. The President will therefore need to look like he is in control of the situation and in command of the facts and arguments needed to persuade the voting public.

Meanwhile, Trump could win just by presenting himself as calm and collected — but this has always been true and always easier said than done. In their first meeting in 2020, Trump interrupted and spoke over Biden so much that the debate became difficult to watch. CNN’s Jake Tapper (the moderator of the upcoming debate) called it “a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck,” and “the worst debate I have ever seen”. If Biden’s task is to keep it together, Trump’s is to not get in his own way.

Unless some truly unusual incident occurs, though, the debate itself might not change much. In years past, candidates have seen a post-debate “bump” in the polls for a good performance. Romney briefly surged into the lead in 2012 after his second debate with President Barack Obama, before regressing gradually back to where he began.

The early timing of this debate makes it even more likely that any short-term effect will fade, and the nature of the 2024 race suggests that even a bad performance by one or the other will be shrugged off in time. These candidates are better-defined in voters’ minds than pretty much any in modern history. Everyone of voting age has lived in a country governed by Trump and then by Biden. They have taken the measure of both, and most are not persuadable. Even Trump’s 34 felony convictions barely moved the polling needle.

The most persuadable voters may be the “double haters” — those who view both men unfavourably. Many of these will never vote for one of the candidates and will probably not vote for the other. Here, perhaps, is what remains of the swing voters: waiting to be convinced that one of these two candidates is slightly less worthy of their contempt.


Kyle Sammin is the managing editor of Broad + Liberty. Follow him on Twitter at @KyleSammin.

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Graham Stull
Graham Stull
25 days ago

The only appropriate response to this ‘debate’ is to ignore it, and even better, to instead tune in to RFK Jr’s alternative presidential debate, over at: TheRealDebate.com

Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
25 days ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Yes, he is neither a raging narcissist nor someone who is “progressive” in his dementia. Too bad his brain has been eaten by worms. What a country.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
24 days ago
Reply to  Joe Donovan

Has it? I have seen no evidence of this. He seems pretty lucid in every interview I see him in.
I don’t agree with all his policies, mind you. For one thing, I am quite a climate sceptic, also I am more critical of US support for the Netanyahu Regime.
But certainly any candidate polling as well as he deserves to be on the debate stage.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
25 days ago

Biden is old and senile. He’s also very stupid and supremely corrupt. That isn’t “rumors”.

Vidar BĂže
Vidar BĂže
24 days ago

I think we should be careful to call someone supremely corrupt without evidence to back it up. I do agree…he is old and he does have a hard time keeping things together. Btw. Why do you have such a hard time to come up with a candidate for the office?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
24 days ago

I think America needs policies associated with “conservatism” — Trump is likely to deliver that. Both candidates so deeply flawed, but a 2nd Biden (a 4th OBiden) term means a continuation of horrible horrible policies.
.
I sure as hades hope we return to halfway normal mid-range candidates 2028 forward.
.
and btw for those worried about Trump declaring himself dictator for life: I plan to be in the vanguard to “do something” about that if it comes to pass which I highly doubt. The Right will NOT stand for THAT.

Chris Maille
Chris Maille
24 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

some radical steps will need to be taken to sustainably drain the swamp. if not, the world is already organizing to end the us hegemony. the end of the petrodollar was just the first step. more to come, regardless whether Trump succeeds in fighting the rampant systemic corruption or not. next step would be to end the united nations and to replace it with something else, more lean and less encoraching on personal freedoms and individual choices.

Michael Walsh
Michael Walsh
24 days ago

Honestly, I can’t bear to watch it. I fear it will be like rubbernecking at the scene of a fatal car accident.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
24 days ago
Reply to  Michael Walsh

I just watched a short BBC clip of the ‘highlights’. It’s pretty bad in the UK at the moment but I am glad I’m not an American with that choice.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
24 days ago

‘Here, perhaps, is what remains of the swing voters: waiting to be convinced that one of these two candidates is slightly less worthy of their contempt.’
What a damningly accurate condemnation of the state of US politics. Unfortunately things are only marginally better in the UK.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
24 days ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

That struck me too. No offence, but things are way worse in Britain.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
24 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Not sure about that, Jim. The US seems to be on the verge of another civil war, this time between the red and the blue states.
At least the UK has two sentient beings as leaders of the main parties, albeit both as insipid as each other. The bigger issue for us is demographic and the one that none of the main parties dare talk about.

Rob C
Rob C
24 days ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

The U.S. is not on the verge of another civil war.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
24 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Worse that the choice of Biden or Trump?! It’s not great here but it hasn’t sunk as low as that.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
21 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

You don’t have a choice in Britain. The two parties are virtually identical, about the worst outcome in politics. At least with Trump, you have a committed opponent to open borders and net zero. Not so in Britain.

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
24 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

No offence taken, but what makes you think so? The economy is unimpressive, true, but no more so than in other European states.
Just interested in your take.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
21 days ago
Reply to  Damon Hager

I actually think Europe is way worse off than Britain, but the bar is pretty low. Britain is truly ruled by the unitary. Net zero and open borders IMO are an existential threat to our standard of living. The two main parties support both these luxury beliefs.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
24 days ago

Don’t worry. Jake Tapper will be there to help Biden along. Ole Jake hates Trump and has spent numerous hours on the air making that case clear, from his pushing the ‘collusion’ to narrative to carrying water for the current administration.

T Redd
T Redd
24 days ago

Yes, Tapper is at Camp David with 10 other CNN people and 16 aides from the WH. They will make sure Joe gets the easy stuff and that Trumps mic is off most of the time. The far far left admin that RUNS Joe will make sure all goes well for Joe. Taking a week to practice vs run the country?? That’s our Joe….

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
24 days ago

I don’t understand why, in a country the size of the USA and with the educational institutes, Biden and Trump are the best they can come up with as candidates.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
24 days ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

I guess it’s all about who’s skin is thick enough to withstand the pressure from all sides and emerge with a smile on their face (or a fixed grin).

Andrew Holmes
Andrew Holmes
24 days ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Reading the history of the US, I am convinced that we experience periodic religious spasms. The latest, which has infected the UK to some degree, is called woke. Akin to the 1960s slogan of “If it feels good, do it”, the current stupidity is a passion to destroy the current social order in favor of misty utopias. Woke, having attained an influential place in the political left has resulted in a counter-woke that is sometimes as delusional as those opposed. Thus, I believe, a major element in producing candidates Biden and Trump.

Simon Templar
Simon Templar
24 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Holmes

I’d say that’s half right. In 2016, business tycoon Donald Trump demolished the GOP Presidential pecking order because he had the brass and skill to win the GOP Primary debates. Under the dire threat of 4 years of Crooked Hillary Inc. (following “Racial healer” Obama’s 8 years), GOP bureaucrats were caught looking weak, while the peasantry was desperate for a fighter. Nothing has changed. Woke insanity has the Left facilitating 10 million mainly violent male immigrants via Mexico, their new voter base, while the white-collar elites, media, tech, “Science” and the deep state desperately hinder the Brawler from knocking over their nice utopian oligarchy. Meanwhile the peasants are still hoping the Brawler can do what he failed to do the first time and put American working families back on the map. The insanity is not symmetrical. We really do want our country back.

J Hop
J Hop
24 days ago

As an American who can’t stand the thought of another four years of Biden I’m just going to sit this out and wait for the analysis the following day from my independant Substack journalists. I’ll check in with Racket News, Free Press, Dave Smith and watch the Ben Shapiro podcast to cover all my political bases. I’ve been really good with sleeping, exercise and avoiding alcohol and I’m pretty sure watching this debate will wreck all of that progress. I’m eyeing my liquor cabinet just thinking about it.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
24 days ago
Reply to  J Hop

As a fellow citizen of the USSA (united socialist state of amerika) I have my Moscow Mule ready!! (Seriously, vodka, ginger beer and lime juice – try it!)

J Hop
J Hop
24 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I do love a Moscow Mule in a nice copper mug but my favorite is a good Smokey Mountain whisky on the rocks. (I live in South Carolina.) Enjoy!

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
24 days ago

The debate is history now and so, I hope, is Joe Biden’s candidacy.

Rob C
Rob C
24 days ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

They are saying he did so poorly that there is renewed talk of replacing him.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
24 days ago
Reply to  Rob C

That’s true. Saying Joe Biden did poorly is true, but understates it. Still, I don’t know what the Democrats can do about it. Replace him they lose. Let him run they lose.

It’s clear now that the Democrats lied to Americans for months about Joe Biden. That should not be forgotten.