Trump and Biden clash in presidential debate

Joe Biden and Donald Trump participated in the first-ever presidential debate between a sitting and a former US president on Thursday evening. The two clashed on issues including migration, foreign policy, abortion and inflation. Biden failed to convince as he mumbled his way through the debate, while Trump repeatedly tried to sell falsehoods and half-truths to voters.

Four months before the US presidential election, Biden took on Trump at CNN’s TV studio in Atlanta. The debate took place exceptionally early in the election year, something Biden's campaign had pushed for, hoping that the Democrat, who has visibly aged since the 2020 election, could reverse the perception that at 81, he is too old to lead the country for another four years.

However, he mumbled and stuttered throughout the debate, losing his train of thought, deviating from his reasoning and struggling to list figures and facts to underscore his point. Not only did he fail to debunk Trump's conspiracy theories, the 6 January Capitol attack and Trump's lies, but he did not even manage to reassure his own party. Instead of proving that he has four more years in him to lead, he caused panic in his own ranks. 

Rambling answers

Especially early on in the debate, he performed remarkably poorly. Even on questions that should have been straightforward, such as abortion or healthcare, his answers were rambling.

He turned a response to tax policy into an incomprehensible statement on health policy and Medicaid, fumbled a statement about abortion by bringing up girls killed by migrants and struggling to explain the overturning of the Roe v Wade abortion ruling, and failed to deliver even his legible answers in a forceful and clear way. ​ 

Trump, in turn, dodged many questions and regurgitated false claims. He pivoted whenever possible towards his favourite topics, reducing questions about climate and inflation to illegal immigration.

On three occasions, the 78-year-old was asked if he would accept the outcome of the election, something he did not do in 2020. After the third time, he said: "If it is a fair election, I will definitely accept the result.”

Disciplined performance

However, he largely gave a relatively disciplined performance. He avoided interruptions and defiance, which cost him in his first debate in 2020, and turned the discussion back to attacks on Biden's record whenever possible.

He got away with unsubstantiated claims, such as his assertion that Democrats support abortions after babies are born, as moderators were not fact-checking live and Biden did not speak up to dispute them.

The showdown also took a personal turn. Biden highlighted Trump’s criminal convictions and his affair with Stormy Daniels, while Trump responded by invoking Biden’s son, Hunter, who was also recently convicted. They also accused each other of being the worst president in the country's history.



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