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The First 2024 General Election Debate: 5 Things to Watch

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With the much-awaited first debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, the 2024 general election season is heating up. The election, which is typified by close polling margins, might be greatly impacted by this discussion, which CNN is moderating under unusual circumstances. Here are five important things to be aware of on this historic occasion.

1. Do Any Mistakes or Knockout Punches Work?

Moments in debates frequently become part of history or swiftly disappear from the collective consciousness. But one slip-up or a memorable one-liner may change the course of the campaign. Moments such as Rick Perry’s 2011 “Oops” and Ronald Reagan’s 1984 remark on youth and inexperience have come to define arguments in the past.

There are many people who doubt Biden’s and Trump’s suitability for government. As an 81-year-old, Biden is often questioned about his mental sharpness, which is made worse by opponents’ deceptively altered footage. Conversely, Trump has made a number of mistakes, including mispronouncing words. Considering how tight the campaign is, either candidate’s major error might have long-lasting effects.

David Kochel, a seasoned Republican strategist, points out that Biden in particular has to stay on course. “He is not able to fumble words. The only thing that will survive is for him to make one mistake, so he can’t keep going off on these sporadic, illogical little tangents,” Kochel remarked. Biden’s performance might help allay concerns about his age and ability.

2. Morality or Regulation?

It will also be clear from the discussion if the candidates are more interested in highlighting policy differences or personal assaults. Drawing attention to his participation in the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021, and his remarks on his first day back in office as a “dictator,” Biden has persistently portrayed Trump as a threat to democracy. Biden also draws attention to Trump’s legal issues, citing his recent felony convictions in New York among others.

On the other hand, Trump makes fun of Biden’s age and refers to him as the leader of the “Biden crime family,” concentrating on his son’s legal troubles and accusations of corruption. Trump also highlights concerns about border security and inflation among voters.

Republican strategist Alex Conant believes that Biden will focus heavily on January 6 on reproductive rights. “If he says the word reproductive rights or abortion less than 100 times over the course of the 90 minutes, he’s probably failing,” Conant stated. Trump, on the other hand, is anticipated to give talks on inflation top priority.

Whichever focus is selected—character or policy—it will make clear to voters where each candidate thinks their opponent is most weak.

3. Offensive versus Defensive

It’s unclear who will lead the offensive approach in this unusual situation where both candidates have held the office of president. Usually, the challenger challenges the incumbent’s record, while the incumbent defends it. But the situation changes when Trump and Biden both defend their presidential runs.

Who successfully goes on the offensive might determine how the discussion turns out. Successful assaults and defenses might have a big impact on how the public feels and what they plan to vote for.

Advertisements that target each other’s records have already cost millions of dollars. Putting up a strong offensive on stage might give any candidate the upper hand.

4. Prompt Timing

The early election cycle date of this discussion adds even more excitement. The impact of the discussion, which was scheduled months before of Labor Day, the customary commencement of significant voter involvement, is questionable.

On the one hand, the first debate may influence voters’ opinions before they are firmly formed, setting the tone for the contest. According to Alex Conant, the discussion is more important because of the time. “It will establish the campaign’s tone for the remainder. It defines the race early in a way that his campaign wants it to, which is important to Biden, who is trying to make this a choice rather than a referendum, Conant said.

But with five months before the election, the discussion may potentially be eclipsed by later occurrences and news cycles, which would lessen its overall influence. “It’s hard to see how there is a big shift or a big thing in this race where there’s also a lot of fairway left to play,” observes Republican pollster Robert Blizzard.

5. Who Is Helped by the Novel Format?

The structure of this argument differs greatly from previous ones. The dynamic shifts significantly since CNN may turn off microphones when candidates aren’t speaking and there isn’t a studio audience present.

What do you think?

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