Joe Biden, Donald Trump Lock Horns In Critical Presidential Debate

Joe Biden and Donald Trump will face off in a critical US presidential debate on Thursday, with massive stakes for both candidates as they compete for the favor of undecided voters and any slight advantage in their neck-and-neck race for the presidency.

Millions of Americans will watch the highly anticipated clash, which will kick off what promises to be a brutal summer of campaigning in a fiercely polarized and angry United States still haunted by the upheaval and violence that surrounded the 2020 election.

With only two debates this election season and national surveys showing the duo in the tightest of races, Thursday’s encounter at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, takes on added weight.

For many voters, the option between President Biden, the oldest ever incumbent, and Trump, now a convicted criminal, is uninspired – a dynamic that both candidates must address as they compete.

For Trump, an innate political pugilist, the challenge will be to control the violent inclinations he unleashed – to his harm — during their first chaotic debate four years ago.

“I think I have been preparing for it for my whole life… We’ll do very well,” Trump told right-wing network Newsmax.

The 81-year-old president will be desperate to avoid any significant gaffes that could raise concerns about his age and instead focus on his core campaign message, which is that Trump poses an existential threat to American democracy.

There will be no studio audience, depriving candidates of the momentum that comes with gaining supporters, and microphones will cut out when a candidate’s speaking time is up.

To coincide with the debate, the Biden campaign released a slew of new attack commercials labeling Trump a convicted felon “looking out for himself,” while Trump’s campaign responded with TV spots accusing the Democrat of mismanaging the economy and supporting illegal immigration.

Trump has a modest advantage in the crucial swing states, but overall polling appears to be extremely close in an election that will be determined by a few picture finishes in a handful of battlegrounds.

According to the most recent Quinnipiac University poll, Trump leads Biden by 49 percent to 45 percent nationally.

The candidates each take the stage for the 90-minute discussion, hoping to ease suspicions of serious political liabilities.

Biden has the biggest concerns about his mental sharpness, with voters far more likely to bring up his age than Trump’s, despite the fact that the Republican is only three years younger.

Before the debate, the first between two candidates who had previously served in the White House, both Trump and Biden made mistakes, stumbling over phrases or appearing confused.

Trump is also embroiled in controversy for his provocative rhetoric, his recent conviction on 34 charges of falsifying company records, and suspicions that he may use the presidency to settle personal scores.

Fine-Tuning or Freewheeling

Biden has spent the week off the radar at the Camp David retreat near Washington, fine-tuning his attack lines in mock debates under real TV lighting.

Trump’s preparation has been more relaxed, eschewing dress rehearsals in favor of informal policy roundtables and workshopping debate strategy with rally crowds.

Aides have encouraged him to focus on his perceived strength on the economy and crime, while Biden will seek to paint Trump as unhinged and unfit for office.

The Trump campaign has repeatedly characterized Biden as feeble and incompetent, but changed tack in recent days following warnings that setting low expectations for the Democratic president would only help him.

“We know that Joe Biden, that after taking an entire week off, will be ready for this,” senior Trump campaign advisor Jason Miller told reporters.

Trump and his team have also been pushing the baseless theory that Biden will be hyped up on performance-enhancing drugs and have made repeated insinuations of bias from CNN.

One of Biden’s biggest vulnerabilities is border security, with Trump promising to combat an influx of undocumented migrants from Mexico with mass deportations and repeatedly bringing up killings by migrants.

The Biden administration said Wednesday there has been a 40 percent drop in illegal crossings since the president’s new executive action last month cracking down on the border.

More Americans expect a Trump debate win than a Biden victory — 40 percent to 30 percent — but just one in 10 thought it even somewhat likely the debate would change their vote.

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