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Biden-Trump presidential debate live updates: Counting down to 1st clash

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(WASHINGTON) — In what is set to be a historic clash of personality and policy, Joe Biden and Donald Trump will soon take the stage for the first presidential debate of the 2024 election.

The showdown will provide a rare opportunity for both candidates to move the needle in what has been a stubbornly tight race for the White House.

The debate is 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 present new challenges for the two rivals.

Here’s how the news is developing.

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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