Biden and Trump in Atlanta: What to expect from the first US presidential debate of 2024

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun27,2024
Key Points
  • Joe Biden and Donald Trump will face off for their first debate of the 2024 presidential election in Atlanta.
  • The unusually early debate will mark the first to feature both a current and former president.
  • Americans will head to the polls to decide their next president in November.
Donald Trump and US President Joe Biden are set to face off in the first presidential debate of the 2024 presidential election cycle in Atlanta on 27 June (local time).
Current national polls show the candidates are neck and neck and there will only be two debates this election cycle, heightening the significance of the clash.
The debate is also the first ever between a sitting and .
Biden will likely attempt to highlight the that Trump is facing, while Trump will likely attempt to drive home worries about Biden’s alertness.

What happened the last time they debated?

The last debates between the two candidates during the 2020 presidential election were fraught, as Trump frequently interrupted Biden, leading him to notably snap “Will you shut up, man?” at one point.
John Hart, a member of the Australian National University’s Emeritus Faculty and the former head of the department of political science at the university, said that this debate, much like the 2020 showdowns, will likely be characterised by a lot of “ill feeling” between the candidates.

“It’s not usual that one candidate is so personally offensive,” Hart said, referencing Trump’s behaviour during debates, including Republican debates in the campaign for the party’s presidential nominee.

What have the candidates said about it?

Biden posted on social media platform X that he had accepted the invitation to the debate from CNN, writing: “Over to you Donald. As you said: anywhere, any time, any place.”
Trump posted a longer comment on his social media platform, Truth Social, that included criticism of Biden’s policies and a claim that he is “supposedly afraid of crowds”.

“Joe Biden is the WORST debater I have ever faced – He can’t put two sentences together,” Trump said.

What is different about this debate?

This year’s presidential debates are unusual for several reasons.

Since 1988, presidential debates have been organised by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. This year, Biden and Trump agreed to bypass the Commission, and this debate has been arranged by and had its rules set by US network CNN.

The broadcast will not involve a studio audience, candidates will not be allowed to bring props or notes onto the stage, and CNN has implemented a new moderating system that will keep microphones muted except for the candidate whose turn it is to speak.
The US’ ABC network will then arrange and broadcast the second debate, which is set to happen on 10 September.
The first debate is also being held unusually early this year, with the election more than four months away.

The debate is also being held ahead of either the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Convention formally nominating Biden and Trump respectively as candidates.

A graphic showing the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election

The debates between Biden and Trump were fraught in the lead-up to the 2020 election. Source: SBS News

Hart said it’s unclear why the debate is happening so early. However, he speculated that it may come down to the fact that Biden and Trump are near-assured as the candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively, and so the debate is an opportunity for them to be seen in a highly publicised event.

“The primaries are of no excitement, no interest at all. And those candidates may feel that they want a national audience early on,” he said.

What will they be talking about?

Abortion, the state of US democracy, foreign conflicts, inflation and border security are all likely to be prominent issues on the debate stage.

Both candidates will also likely have planned avenues of attack against each other.

The debate comes in the wake of a criminal trial that has consumed Trump’s attention for months and resulted in him becoming the . Trump’s sentencing is scheduled for 11 July.
Hart believes Biden may try to use Trump’s criminal status to his advantage.
“I don’t think Biden will hesitate to call Trump a convicted felon,” he said.
Hart said that Trump is harder to predict in his strategy, as he may stray from advice, but points of vulnerability that he may try to exploit are the cost of living, and (at 81 years old, Biden is three years older than Trump).

Does the presidential debate influence voters?

Hart said it is unclear how influential presidential debates are in swaying voter decisions. However, he said that big missteps in debates have appeared to cost candidates elections in the past, including Jimmy Carter in a 1980 debate with Ronald Reagan when he mentioned that he had consulted with his daughter — then 13 years old — on nuclear weapons proliferation.
Hart believes audiences will be watching for these kinds of gaffes.
“I think a lot of people will be watching this year’s debate just to see if Biden does slip up, if he mangles ideas, even if he has some sort of physical slip-up because of the age issue.

With Trump, I think people will be watching — critically watching — to see just how far off the planet he goes with some of his political positions, particularly about immigrants, illegal migrants, that sort of thing.”

How can Australians watch the presidential debate?

SBS, Seven, Nine and Sky have confirmed they will air the debate via CNN on the morning of 28 June.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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