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22/06/24 | 11:43 am

Biden, Trump prep for presidential debate that will highlight mental fitness

President Joe Biden is hunkered down with aides at Camp David for several days to get ready to debate rival Donald Trump, who is eschewing traditional preparation and instead holding informal policy discussions between campaign stops.

The face-off in Atlanta, at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 27 (0100 GMT on Friday), will be the earliest presidential debate in modern U.S. history and a critical event for both candidates. It will include two commercial breaks, no props and muted microphones when the other candidate is speaking to head off a repeat of their often raucous 2020 debates.

Biden, 81, and former president Trump, 78, are neck-and-neck in national opinion polls, with a considerable slice of the electorate still undecided five months before the Nov. 5 vote.

The debate will provide the starkest contrast yet of the two men, the oldest candidates ever to seek the U.S. presidency, as voters question their age and mental sharpness.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communications at University of Pennsylvania, said that because of the candidate’s age age the public will ask “are they mentally acute enough to be president of the United States?”.

Biden’s team will focus on refining the argument that Trump pursues extremist policies on abortion and other issues, is a danger to democracy, and is beholden to the rich donors writing him checks, a campaign official told Reuters.

Democratic strategist Philippe Reines, who coached Hillary Clinton in her 2016 debate with Trump, suggested Biden can show he has not lost his touch is by not holding back in taking Trump to task on the debate stage. “One way to really show that’s just not true is to show the “full Joe Biden,” Reines said.

The Trump camp, meanwhile, wants to make Biden defend his administration’s record on immigration and inflation.

“I don’t think the goal would be to restrain Donald Trump,” said Brett O’Donnell, a Republican strategist and frequent debate adviser. “I think it would be to suggest ways that he can keep getting back to the message that he wants to drive and to keep him from crossing the line from being aggressive to being offensive.”

Alan Schroeder, professor emeritus of journalism at Northeastern University, sees some risk for Biden if he brings up Trump’s recent felony conviction in the Stormy Daniels hush money case. “If he makes it part of a broader issue about Trump’s fitness for office and some of the things that he’s done -more of a character issue, then specifically about that trial and that outcome – I think that’s probably a better strategy for him.”


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