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Major Takeaways From Biden-Trump Presidential Debate

The 2024 presidential election cycle kicked off with a high-stakes debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump on Thursday night.

The 90-minute face-off, hosted by CNN in Atlanta with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash moderating, was marked by contrasting performances that have ignited discussions across the political spectrum.

The debate structure was notably strict, with each candidate’s microphone being muted when it was not their turn to speak, and no studio audience present.

The candidates tackled a range of critical issues, including the economy, abortion, Middle East policies, the January 6 attack on the Capitol, and Trump’s recent criminal conviction.

President Biden, who appeared to be under the weather with a cold, faced difficulties in delivering his responses.

Former President Trump, on the other hand, brought a high level of energy to the debate. However, his performance was clouded by numerous misstatements. Trump’s remarks on topics such as abortion, his own legal troubles, and Biden’s immigration policies were flagged by fact-checkers as being misleading or outright false.

Economy

Biden addressed the economic pain caused by inflation, blaming Trump for leaving an economy in “freefall” and mishandling the pandemic. He highlighted his administration’s efforts to lower prices, such as reducing insulin costs.

Trump countered, claiming the U.S. had the “greatest economy” under his leadership and blaming Biden for high inflation. This claim is false, as economic growth under Trump was lower than during other presidencies, notably Bill Clinton’s. Trump falsely stated that Biden only created jobs for “illegal immigrants” and “bounce back” jobs post-COVID.

Defending his proposal for a 10% tariff on all foreign products, Trump argued it wouldn’t drive up prices, a view many economists dispute. He criticized Biden’s economic policies, stating the U.S. has become “like a third-world nation” and that his tax cuts spurred unprecedented economic growth. Trump also claimed that U.S. global respect has diminished under Biden’s leadership.

Health

Trump expressed support for the Supreme Court’s decision preserving access to the abortion pill mifepristone and said he “will not block it.” He touted his appointment of three justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, returning abortion decisions to the states. Trump stated that states are now “working it out” and emphasized his belief in exceptions for rape, incest, and protecting the mother’s life.

Biden called Trump’s claim that “everybody” opposed Roe v. Wade “ridiculous,” noting that most constitutional scholars supported it.

Biden struggled early in the debate, mixing up Medicare and Medicaid and stumbling over tax rate figures for wealthy Americans. He attempted to highlight priorities like funding child care and health care but had difficulty articulating his points. Trump seized on Biden’s confusion, mocking his performance by saying, “He did beat Medicaid, he beat it to death.”

Immigration/Capitol Attack

Trump criticized Biden for allowing migrants, including criminals and terrorists, to cross the border. He claimed the U.S. had the “safest border in history” during his presidency and accused Biden of opening the country to dangerous individuals.

Biden refuted these claims, stating that only one terrorist incident occurred under Trump’s administration. He dismissed Trump’s statements as exaggerations without data to support them.

When asked about concerns over a repeat of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, Trump deflected by touting his administration’s achievements and claiming that the U.S. was respected worldwide during his term. He insisted that he had called for peaceful actions on Jan. 6 and criticized former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Tapper asked Trump to respond to voters who are concerned about a repeat of the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“Well, I don’t think too many believe that, and let me tell you about Jan. 6,” Trump said. “On Jan. 6, we had a great border. Nobody coming through, very few. On Jan. 6, we were energy independent. On Jan. 6, we had the lowest taxes ever. We had the lowest regulations ever. On Jan. 6, we were respected all over the world, all over the world we were respected. And then he comes in and we’re now laughed at. We’re like a bunch of stupid people.”

Trump And Biden Spar Over Who Is The Worse President

During one exchange, the candidates abandoned substantive responses to criticize each other as the worst president in history.

“He’s the worst president,” Trump said in response to a question about child care. “He’s the worst president in the history of our country.”

Biden rejected the claim, citing a recent survey of political scientists that named Trump as the worst president in American history. “That’s a fact,” Biden asserted.

Trump, given another chance to address child care, promised, “If I’m given another four years, I’ll be the best.”

When asked about concerns regarding his age, Biden, currently 81, noted he was one of the youngest senators when he took office at 30. “This guy’s three years younger, and a lot less competent,” Biden said, highlighting his record on job creation and bringing jobs back to the U.S.

Trump, 82 at the end of a potential second term, responded to similar concerns by citing his cognitive test results and recent golf victories as proof of his health and competence.

Regarding the acceptance of election results, Trump initially avoided a direct answer but ultimately said he would accept the results “if it’s a fair and legal and good election.” He reiterated baseless claims of fraud from the 2020 election, despite no evidence of widespread fraud that would have affected the outcome.

Biden called Trump a “whiner” for his continued denial of the 2020 results, pointing out that no court found merit in his claims. “The idea if you lose again, you accepting anything, you can’t stand the loss,” Biden said.

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