The Biden-Trump debate may be the most closely watched debate in history

Former President Donald Trump wondered aloud Saturday at Temple University whether he should act “tough and nasty” toward President Joe Biden during this week’s debate or “nice and calm.”

Meanwhile, the Biden campaign brought laughter to hundreds of people watching the debate across the country and plans to roll out digital ads around the debate, hosted by CNN on Thursday night in Atlanta.

In an election year where political stakes are high and voter engagement is low, Biden and Trump will face each other in the earliest and perhaps most significant presidential debate in the country’s history. After years of attacks on each other, often in person, they will meet in person to set the terms of a competition that has until now remained stubbornly unchanged.

“There have been wars, there have been convictions, and we haven’t seen any change in the polls,” said Spencer Kimball, a pollster at Emerson College. Trump and Biden are even running in Pennsylvania and across the country. While the debate is expected to draw record viewership nationwide, both candidates’ target audience will be voters in critical swing states like Pennsylvania.

“If you’re a Trump or Biden Uber fan in South Carolina or Maryland, no offense, but it doesn’t really matter,” said Nachama Soloveichik, a GOP political consultant in Pittsburgh.

The debate, five months before the election, comes in the middle of an unprecedented summer start to the campaign. Biden, 81, the oldest serving president in US history, is looking for momentum amid concerns about his age and his ability to serve a second term. Trump, 78, was found guilty of 34 criminal charges filed last month in New York and will likely face questions about that conviction and other criminal cases.

The benefits of early debate

Traditionally, presidential debates do not begin until the fall, after the candidates are officially nominated at party conventions. Biden’s campaign suggested an earlier debate and a unique format that includes variable microphones and no audience.

The June debate offers Biden a chance to reach core Democratic constituencies that abandoned him when he sought re-election.

“Biden’s people were smart to start the debate early because they had to cut off the discussion about Biden’s mental acuity,” said public affairs consultant Larry Ceisler. “Biden needs to stop the bleeding with the Democratic base. The bar that Trump has set is so low for him that he should be able to meet it, if not exceed it.”

The president’s last much-anticipated public appearance was in March. the State of the Union address and it was widely praised for clearly and vigorously touting his achievements. But debate it will be without a script, without a teleprompter and with the participation of Trump, who is extremely difficult to predict.

However, time allows pillow before November Should Biden, who has a history of verbal slip-ups and gaffes, have a bad time?

“Trump is just faster on his feet,” Soloveichik said. “That gives him an automatic advantage. I think Biden is playing with the calendar to make it advantageous for him. People have plenty of time to forget about what happened this week. In the summer, politics comes to a standstill.

But with such a long run-up to the next debate in September, there is also the risk that a wrong move or insult will echo for months.

Trump, who has repeatedly called for Biden to debate, has since downplayed his strength, saying the format and moderators were biased against him. His challenge will be to maintain a more balanced approach, moving away from the typically brash style.

“When you look at how Trump was on the campaign trail, he was more disciplined — relatively for him,” Ceisler said.

The debate is also a replay of the candidates’ meetings four years ago, thanks to which viewers will be able to compare the voices and appearance of both men frame by frame. The campaigns will use the first debate to correct course before they face off again in September.

Will the debate influence voters?

About 10% of voters in most Pennsylvania polls remain undecided. Most people watching the debates are there to support the candidate of choice. Some voters on the fence may be watching. But many undecided voters simply aren’t that engaged to begin with, so they may not turn on the radio for 90 minutes.

Debates can still have an impact on undecided voters who don’t watch, as can the content and outcome of the debate will drive media cycles and influence fundraising to reach the campaign. And while Labor Day is usually when voters start taking notice, there are a few significant ones campaign moments this summer, including Trump’s sentencing in July, his long-awaited choice of running mate, and both parties’ conventions in July and August.

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