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Biden falters in high-stakes debate, Trump spews falsehoods

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(ATLANTA) — In a historic clash of personality and policy, Joe Biden and Donald Trump took the stage for the first presidential debate of the 2024 election.

The showdown provided a rare opportunity for both candidates to move the needle in what has been a stubbornly tight race for the White House, but at the end of the night, Biden’s halting performance raised new concerns among Democrats and cause Republicans to celebrate.

The debate was a rematch for Biden and Trump, who faced each other twice in 2020, but a first-of-its-kind format and a vastly different political landscape presented new challenges for the two rivals.

Here’s how the debate developed:

Jun 27, 10:58 PM
Bitter debate offers little new insight into Biden, Trump policy goals

For the most part, tonight’s debate revealed nothing new about what Biden and Trump think on major issues from the economy, immigration, foreign policy and reproductive rights.

Each candidate reiterated positions they’ve already touted countless times on the campaign stump.

Instead, they largely focused on criticizing each other’s past records and lobbing personal attacks.

Jun 27, 10:47 PM
Trump targets Biden during his closing argument

In his two-minute closing argument, Trump went after Biden’s record abroad in a personal attack.

“They don’t respect you throughout the world,” he said.

Trump said he had the largest tax cut and the largest regulation cuts in history, but the country is now “exploding.”

“We’re a failing nation, but it’s not going to be failing anymore,” he said. “We’re going to make it great again.”

Jun 27, 10:36 PM
Trump deflects when asked if will accept election results

Trump went to other topics when asked if he would accept the results of the 2024 election and had to be asked the question several times.

The former president finally responded, “If it’s a fair and legal and good election absolutely,” before adding that he would have accepted the last election if not for “the fraud.” There was no evidence of widespread election fraud in the 2020 election.

Biden pushed back that Trump’s fraud claims were debunked by courts, telling him, “You can’t stand the loss.”

“I doubt you’ll accept it because you’re a whiner,” he said.

Jun 27, 10:41 PM
Biden delivers closing argument

“We have made significant progress from the debacle that was left by President Trump in his last term,” Biden said.

Biden then went on to summarize some of his signature policies. On the economy, he vowed he will not raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000 a year and to continue his work to reduce health care costs, child care costs and give families financial breathing room.

“We’re going to continue to fight to bring down inflation and give people a break,” Biden said in closing.

Jun 27, 10:37 PM
Candidates asked to address opioid crisis

The candidates were asked what they could do to help Americans battling the opioid crisis in the U.S.

After being prompted to respond to the question, Trump said that during his term as president they had “great equipment” and drug-detecting dogs to find illicit drugs at the border.

Biden said the U.S. needs machinery that can detect fentanyl and more agents at the border, and added that the U.S. is coming down “very hard” on countries in Asia that are producing fentanyl.

Jun 27, 10:32 PM
Biden, Trump asked about voter concerns about their age

Moderator Dana Bash asked Biden, 81, and Trump, 78, to address voter concerns about their age.

“First of all, I spent half my career being criticized for being the youngest person in politics,” Biden said. “I was the second youngest person ever elected to the United States Senate. And now I’m the oldest. This guy’s three years younger and a lot less competent.”

Biden said voters should look at his record and what his administration’s accomplished.

Trump pointed to the “cognitive test” he’s taken. In 2018, he took the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, a test designed to detect early signs of memory loss and other mild cognitive impairment.

“He took none,” Trump said of Biden. “I’d like to see him take one, just one, a really easy one. Like go through the first five questions, he couldn’t do it.”

Jun 27, 10:14 PM
Biden has a cold, campaign says

An hour in and here is the Biden campaign spin on what so far has been a rocky performance by the president.

Biden has a cold (but tested negative for COVID-19), the campaign confirms. They haven’t offered any explanation for why they didn’t disclose this sooner.

Overall, the campaign says they are feeling fine. They agree it was a slow start but say he’s found his groove.

-ABC News’ Mary Bruce and Molly Nagle

Jun 27, 10:12 PM
Biden attacks Trump over scandals

Trump has made several comments about going after his political opponents and retribution. Asked to clarify what he meant, Trump replied, “Well, I said my retribution is going to be success.”

He also contended that he’s done nothing wrong despite his numerous criminal and civil cases.

Biden fired back contending that Trump’s claims that he has the right to seek retribution is wrong. He then went after Trump over his various scandals.

“The crimes you are still charged with and think of all the civil penalties you have, how many billions of dollars … and civil penalties? For molesting a woman in public for doing a whole range of things … having sex with a porn star … while your wife was pregnant? What would you be talking about? You have the morals of an alley cat,” Biden said.

Jun 27, 10:01 PM
Biden says Trump voters are voting against democracy

When asked point-blank whether he believes the millions of Americans who are likely to vote for Trump will be voting against American democracy — in reference to the president’s past comment that Trump and his MAGA Republicans are “determined to destroy American democracy,” Biden responded, “Yes, the more they know about what he’s done.”

Biden went on to reference Trump’s comment that there were “very fine people on both sides” of clashes at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

“This guy has no sense of American democracy,” Biden said.

Trump called his accusation false.

Jun 27, 9:50 PM
Biden calls Trump a ‘convicted felon’ and Trump brings up Hunter

Amid questioning about democracy and the Trump mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, Biden took a shot at Trump’s historic conviction in the hush money case.

“The only convicted felon is the guy standing on the stage with me now,” Biden said.

Trump then quickly brought up Hunter Biden’s recent conviction on federal gun charges.

Jun 27, 9:45 PM
Trump deflects when asked about Jan. 6, violating oath

Trump largely avoiding taking on a question about what he would say to Americans who believe he violated his oath on Jan. 6, 2021, and are worried he would do it again.

Instead, he pivoted to the border and to criticizing Biden’s record.

Moderator Jake Tapper pressed him again, saying there was 80 seconds remaining to answer the question. Trump went on to attack former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Jun 27, 9:42 PM
Biden addresses Trump’s alleged ‘suckers’ veterans comment: ‘You’re the sucker’

In a heated moment in response to Trump’s claim that the president “doesn’t care about our veterans,” Biden referenced a 2020 Atlantic article in which Trump was reported to have called Americans killed as “suckers” while on a trip to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France in 2018.

On the subsequently canceled visit, the Atlantic reported that Trump told senior staff members, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.”

Referring to his late son Beau during the debate, Biden said to Trump, “My son was not a loser, was not a sucker. You’re the sucker, you’re the loser.”

Trump responded by saying it was in a “third-rate magazine” and the source had “made it up.”

Jun 27, 9:48 PM
Trump makes false claims Democrats support killing babies after birth

During the debate, Trump claimed that Democrats “support abortion up to and even beyond the ninth month,” and contended that some Democratic states have had such a stance.

Democrats have never advocated for killing a baby after it is born as this would be murder, which is illegal in every state. Nine states have no abortion restrictions in place; however, it should be noted that late-term abortions are exceedingly rare, representing 1%, according to KFF.

Jun 27, 9:20 PM
Biden stumbles, pauses for several seconds

Biden stumbled as he attacked Trump and defended his own record, pausing for several seconds.

The president was discussing domestic programs he hoped to be able to invest in with the money that would be gained by taxes the wealthiest Americans before trailing off and pausing, ultimately saying “we beat Medicare.”

“He did beat Medicare, he beat it to death,” Trump responded.

Jun 27, 9:24 PM
Trump says he will not block abortion pills

Trump, who had yet to clarify his stance on abortion medication, said he would not block access to the drug if elected.

Jun 27, 9:15 PM
Trump asked about plan to impose 10% tariff on goods coming to US

Asked how he would ensure that his plan to impose a 10% tariff on all goods coming to the U.S. wouldn’t drive prices higher Trump said it won’t drive them higher but will force countries like China to “pay us a lot of money” and “give us a lot of power for other things,” though didn’t elaborate.

Jun 27, 9:13 PM
Biden defends economic record in 1st exchange of the night

Biden fielded the first question from moderator Jake Tapper, who asked him what his message was to Americans who feel worse off financially under his administration than they did under Trump.

Biden claimed he was handed an economy in “free fall.” He touted his record on job creation and lowering prescription drug prices and other household costs.

Trump, in turn, claimed he he had “the greatest economy in the history of our country” and that inflation is “absolutely killing us.”

Jun 27, 9:04 PM
Candidates take the stage

Biden and Trump are now at the lecterns. The two entered from different sides of the stage and did not shake hands.

Jun 27, 8:59 PM
Melania Trump not attending debate

ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott reported that Melania Trump will not be at the debate.

The former first lady has made few appearances on the campaign trail as her husband seeks another term.

Jun 27, 8:54 PM
Biden pokes fun at Trump’s jabs about performance-enhancing substances

Biden posted a photo on x taking a shot at Trump’s allegations that he’s taking performance-enhancing substances for the debate.

The president is seen holding a can of water with the “Dark Brandon” meme image claiming to be “Dark Brandon’s secret sauce.” The can, which will go on sale on the Biden campaign’s site next month, has a statement in bold letters “Get real, Jack. It’s just water.”

“I don’t know what they’ve got in these performance enhancers, but I’m feeling pretty jacked up. Try it yourselves, folks. See you in a bit,” the X post said.

Jun 27, 8:44 PM
Muted mics and other new ground rules for tonight

For the first time since the first televised debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960, there will be no live audience at CNN’s studio in Atlanta.

The candidates’ microphones will be muted unless it is their turn to speak. They will have two minutes to respond to questions and one minute for rebuttals, and there will be a red flashing light to indicate to them their time is about to expire.

The 90-minute program will have two commercial breaks, but Trump and Biden won’t be able to consult with their teams during them. No props or note cards are allowed on stage.

Here’s what experts said about the new rules, and how they may help or hurt each candidate.

Jun 27, 8:28 PM
Possible VP picks on hand to support Trump at debate

Several possible vice presidential picks for Trump are in Atlanta for the debate.

Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Tim Scott, R-S.C., and J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson were seen in a picture posted to X by Stefanik.

Trump has repeatedly teased an announcement of who will join him in the 2024 ticket, but he has yet to make a final decision.

Jun 27, 8:23 PM
Swing-state voters on what they want to hear from Biden, Trump

Voters across Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania spoke with ABC News about their unhappiness with both candidates and what they’re looking to hear from them during the debate.

“I’d like to see what they’re going to do for small businesses in this country,” said Scranton resident Jennifer Merceau, whose husband owns a masonry company.

Janee Johnson, who works at Toast ‘N Jams in Muskegon, Michigan, said the focus should be on doing the “right things for America.”

Michael Kordecki, the owner of that restaurant, wishes he could tell the candidates to “be more positive about America, about our future, and about what we can do with or without new people coming into the country.”

Jun 27, 8:14 PM
This is the earliest presidential debate in history

With 131 days until Election Day, this faceoff is occurring months ahead of the usual fall timeline.

“The combination of having so many people with doubts about both candidates, coupled with the first debate occurring before either convention, heightens its potential importance,” Republican political strategist Whit Ayres told ABC News.

Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville told ABC News: “People’s attitudes are very fixed and voters tend to be pretty entrenched. The person that ‘wins’ … in this debate is going to be the one that provides voters with some new information.”

-ABC News’ Isabella Murray and Tommy Barone

Jun 27, 7:46 PM
PolitiFact is joining the blog tonight to help sort out fact from fiction

Hi everyone, I’m Aaron Sharockman, the executive director of PolitiFact. I’m excited to join the ABC/538 team to provide fact-checking of the candidates. If you don’t know PolitiFact, we’ve been fact-checking political statements since 2007 using our Truth-O-Meter, which rates claims on a scale from True to Pants on Fire False.

We’ll be providing you real-time updates throughout the night.

How? Well, it’s not because we’re super smart or super fast (though maybe we are a little bit). No, it’s really because we’ve been fact-checking Biden and Trump for more than a dozen years. And over all those years, and all their campaigns, they’ve said a lot of things worth fact-checking.

And both candidates often repeat themselves.

Our team of 25 fact-checkers and editors have prepped dozens of instant fact-checks based on what we expect Trump and Biden might say. And if they do, we’ll be able to share that analysis with you almost instantly.

If you want a primer of what we expect to hear tonight — and how accurate those claims are — you can take a look here.

-Analysis by Aaron Sharockman, PolitiFact

Jun 27, 7:37 PM
Where 538’s Biden-Trump election forecast stands before the debate

Heading into tonight’s event, Biden and Trump are locked in a close contest. 538’s presidential election forecast rates the race as a dead heat, with both Biden and Trump having about a 1 in 2 shot of winning the election. This falls in line with our national polling average, which has the two candidates just about tied at 41%, with Kennedy polling at 9%.

But as readers know, U.S. presidential elections aren’t decided by the national popular vote. Instead, they’re decided by the Electoral College, where the results in individual states determine who wins each state’s electoral votes, with a majority of 270 out of 538 in total necessary to claim victory. Currently, the forecast shows an extremely tight race in each of the most pivotal states.

For instance, Biden’s path to victory may rest primarily on winning the Frost Belt battlegrounds of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that he carried in 2020. While the forecast shows him with small leads in each of those states, Biden’s advantage is well inside the range of potential outcomes, meaning Trump could easily carry them once we get to November. Meanwhile, Trump holds a narrow edge in the Sun Belt swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina, but similarly his leads are far from secure.

Still, with nearly four months to go until Election Day, there’s a great deal of uncertainty around where public opinion will stand when voters cast their ballots. 538’s forecast utilizes a combination of polling information and campaign fundamentals, such as the economic situation and each state’s partisan leanings. Together, those indicators show a toss-up race that could go in either direction.

Now, tonight’s debate could move the contest: Historically, the margin in presidential races has shifted by an average of about 2 points in the two weeks following the first general election debate in cycles dating back to 1976. In what could be bad news for Biden, that movement has more often than not gone against the incumbent president or party. Yet we’re still sailing in uncharted waters. After all, this election involves both a sitting and former president, an unprecedented matchup in modern times. The debate is history-making, too: It’s nearly three months earlier than any past general election face-off.

-538’s Geoffrey Skelley

Jun 27, 7:27 PM
Jill Biden says president ‘confident’ ahead of debate

Hours before the debate, first lady Jill Biden told deep-pocked donors that the president is “ready” for his faceoff against Trump.

“Joe’s ready to go. He’s prepared. He’s confident,” she said at a fundraising retreat at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Atlanta, according to the press pool. “You know what a great debater he is.”

She thanked donors for “making the right choice” for democracy, urging them to keep up their work in support of Biden, according to the press pool.

“We can’t stop now. We can’t get complacent,” the first lady said. “We’ve got to keep working together, working harder than we’ve ever worked before.”

-ABC News’ Fritz Farrow, Gabriella Abdul-Hakim and Will McDuffie

Jun 27, 7:24 PM
WHCA protests pool reporters being barred from debate studio

The White House Correspondents’ Association is “deeply concerned” that CNN has barred travel pool reporters from being inside the studio and close to Biden during all of tonight’s historic presidential debate.

Despite “repeated requests” for White House pool access, CNN will allow only one print reporter to enter during a commercial break for a brief observation.

“That is not sufficient in our view and diminishes a core principle of presidential coverage,” president of the WHCA Kelly O’Donnell said in a statement Thursday.

“The pool is there for the ‘what ifs?’ in a world where the unexpected does happen,” O’Donnell said.

-ABC News’ Emily Chang

Jun 27, 7:14 PM
Candidates prepare for interruptions despite muted mics

Just because their microphones will be turned on only when it’s their turn to speak, it doesn’t mean there won’t be interruptions, and campaign staffers of both candidates are preparing for it.

Since the candidates are still only 8 feet apart, there is a scenario where the viewer may not hear an interruption, but the other candidate and the moderators will.

Advisers from both campaigns told reporters that’s something they’ve acknowledged or discussed in debate preparations.

The Biden campaign said it is hoping the president just flat-out ignores any distractions or comments that Trump makes.

The Trump campaign said it is aware that tonight they could play this both ways: The former president could stay on message when his microphone is turned on but make off-hand comments to irk Biden when his microphone is turned off.

When it comes to the traditional handshake between the candidates before the event, both sides are being coy.

One Biden adviser said, “I wouldn’t do it,” while an adviser for the Trump campaign responded simply by laughing.

-ABC News’ Rachel Scott

Jun 27, 7:03 PM
Biden, Trump face differing expectations heading into debate

Biden and Trump are navigating different expectations heading into the debate — though Republicans have largely set the standards for each.

Polls show that voters share concerns about Biden’s age (81 years old) and fitness for office, and Republicans have for years cast the president as a dithering man. Showing vitality, as he did during this year’s State of the Union, and nimbly mixing it up with Trump, could help alleviate those worries, Democrats told ABC News.

Trump, meanwhile, has been working overtime to set his own expectations. He’s repeatedly demeaned CNN — the host — to suggest he’ll be debating behind enemy lines. And he’s emphasized his unfounded claims that Biden will be on some kind of drug to enhance his performance, seemingly to undercut the prospect of a good performance by the president. Some Republicans have also been highlighting Biden’s extensive resume of running races and debating.

Still, Trump’s allies are setting high expectations for him, with senior adviser Jason Miller telling ABC News that Trump has demonstrated “elite stamina.”

Jun 27, 6:38 PM
Trump raises his fist as he exits plane in Atlanta

Trump arrived in Atlanta just before 5:30 p.m. As he exited the plane, he raised his fist and clapped his hands.

He went straight into his motorcade without approaching or greeting nearly 200 supporters who gathered to welcome him.

Accompanying him were his advisers Susie Wiles, Steven Cheung, James Blair, Jason Miller, Chris LaCivita, and Corey Lewandowski. The only lawmaker on the plane with him was Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.

Jun 27, 6:33 PM
Biden stops to greet supporters on way to debate studio

Biden stepped off Air Force One in Georgia about 3:15 p.m. to greet a group of supporters on the tarmac applauding his arrival. The president was donning his signature aviators and a navy-blue suit.

He spent several moments shaking hands with Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, former mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Stacey Abrams and Jason Carter, Jimmy Carter’s grandson.

As he made his way to CNN’s studio, Biden made an unexpected stop to shake hands with a group of cheering supporters. The group held “Dark Brandon” cardboard cutouts and chanted “Let’s go, Joe!” and “Four More Years!”

Biden moved down the line to shake hands and meet people for nearly 10 minutes.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Jun 27, 6:27 PM
Debate impact wanes amid polarization, viral competition: Experts

As Biden and Trump prepare to square off in their first political debate in four years, historians and experts contend the matchup may have a small but crucial impact on the election.

Aaron Kall, director of debate for the University of Michigan’s Debate Program, told ABC News the majority of those who tune in are likely already locked into a preferred candidate.

“Nothing that occurs during the 90-minute debate is going to change or influence who they’re going to vote for,” he said.
However, Kall and other experts ABC News spoke with said there is still a smaller group of undecided voters who do tune in and can be swayed by the performances.

With the last two presidential elections decided by just tens of thousands of votes in a few states — many cast by independent voters — candidates’ debate strategies have become laser-focused on courting that group, according to Julien Labarre, administrator of the University of California Santa Barbara’s Center of Information Technology & Society.

“What we see is people who were not thinking of going to vote being turned into voters,” he told ABC News. “Spurring people into participation, we do see that kind of effect.”

-ABC News’ Ivan Pereira

Jun 27, 6:05 PM
How Americans feel going into the debate

After tonight’s debate, there will be a rush to anoint a “winner” and a “loser,” but the only way we can really do that is once we have data on how the debate will actually affect people’s votes. To that end, 538 partnered with Ipsos to poll the same group of likely voters both before and after the debate to see how their attitudes change. Here are some of the key findings from our pre-debate poll, which was conducted using Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel.

First, we asked respondents to rate how well they thought each candidate would perform in the debate tonight on a five-point scale. On average, Trump got a score of 2.96 out of 5, and Biden got a score of 2.58 out of 5. In other words, expectations are significantly lower for Biden tonight, which could end up helping him — even a so-so performance from Biden would exceed most people’s expectations.

It looks like the reason people have such low expectations for Biden is his advanced age. We also asked respondents to grade each candidate’s physical, mental and emotional fitness on a five-point scale. On average, Biden got just a 2.3 out of 5 on physical fitness and a 2.4 out of 5 on mental fitness. Trump bested him on both of those measures, but Trump got only a 2.6 out of 5 on emotional fitness, which was lower than Biden’s score.

We also asked voters what issues would have the most impact on their vote. Fifty percent ranked inflation or increasing costs as one of their top three issues, while 37% included immigration. Voters also said Trump would do a better job handling those issues than Biden, so it will be especially important for the president to show strength on these issues tonight.

Finally, we asked voters which candidates they were considering supporting. Heading into the debate, 44.8% of voters are at least considering voting for Trump, 44.5% are at least considering voting for Biden and 18.5% are at least considering voting for independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who failed to qualify for the debate. (Respondents could say they were considering multiple candidates, which is why these numbers add up to more than 100%.) We’ll ask voters the same question after the debate to see whether these numbers shift.

-538’s Nathaniel Rakich

Jun 27, 5:56 PM
Debate offers rare chance to change a rigid race

The debate between Biden and Trump marks one of the few foreseeable opportunities to change a race characterized by stagnant polls.

Literal history is in the rearview in the race, including 34 felony convictions for Trump in New York — that leaves just the debates, the party conventions and Trump’s sentencing as the only dates on the calendar that the campaigns could circle as opportunities to try to gain an edge.

“If you’re looking at the calendar for the next five months, this is one of those moments. And somebody’s going to take advantage of it,” Chip Saltsman, a GOP strategist who worked on former Vice President Mike Pence’s now-suspended presidential bid, told ABC News.

Read more here.

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