The first debate was a complete disaster for Joe Biden (2024)

Joe Biden and Donald Trump met for their first debate of the year on Thursday.

It was a high-stakes gamble for the president, who has consistently trailed the former president in both national and swing state polls.

It went horribly.

Biden started off especially weak

From the very beginning of the debate, there was an unmistakable frailty to Biden's demeanor. According to NBC, he has a cold.


Responding to the CNN moderator Jake Tapper's first question, which was about the economy, Biden appeared out of breath. He hastily began reciting facts while slurring and occasionally omitting words.

At times, Biden uttered nonsensical phrases.

On another question about the war in Gaza, Biden flubbed, saying, "We are the biggest producer of support for Israel of anyone in the world."

During another question about the national debt, Biden inexplicably concluded by saying "We finally beat Medicare."

President Biden seems to stumble while answering a question about drug prices, going silent before saying, “We finally beat Medicare.”

Donald Trump: “He’s right, he did beat Medicare, he beat it to death.”

— The Recount (@therecount) June 28, 2024

"Well, he's right," Trump responded. "He did beat Medicare. He beat it to death."

Trump, for his part, effectively capitalized on Biden's weak performance, maintaining a calm demeanor and staying disciplined while occasionally making jabs at the president.

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"I really don't know what he said at the end of that sentence," said Trump. "I don't think he knows what he said either."

Former President Trump: "I really don't know what he said at the end of that sentence. I don't think he knows what he said either."

— CSPAN (@cspan) June 28, 2024

Biden grew more energetic over time — but his responses remained muddled

Over the course of the debate, Biden's voice grew slightly less hoarse. But the incoherence in many of his responses remained.

Many Republican elected officials went into tonight claiming that Biden would be on drugs, anticipating that the president would deliver a relatively strong performance.

They ended up being wrong — but in a way that worked to their benefit.

Trump told plenty of lies. But Biden's poor performance overshadowed that.

Even as the former president maintained a relatively even keel at the debate, he told a litany of lies.

He falsely blamed Biden for the numerous indictments he's facing: Two of them were brought by local officials in New York and Georgia, while two others originated from the Justice Department, which operates independently of the president.


Trump claimed that food prices have "doubled and tripled and quadrupled" under Biden, a gross exaggeration of the 25% increase from 2019 to 2023, according to the Department of Agriculture.

He also claimed Biden used the phrase "super predators" to describe African Americans, even though there's no record of the president making those comments.

It hardly ended up mattering: Biden's poor performance outshined all of it.

There's another debate on September 10. Biden will have to think hard about whether to do it.

Both Biden and Trump have agreed to another debate on September 10.


If you're a Biden ally, there's a few different ways to look at that: It could be an opportunity to reset what is obviously a very bad impression that was set tonight, or it could be yet another forum for Biden to show weakness.

Thursday's debate was the earliest general election debate on record: though both men are the presumptive nominees of their respective parties, they have yet to be officially nominated.

There are several other Democrats who have long been seen as potential Biden alternatives, should he choose to drop out.

But it's unclear if the president would opt to do so, or whether he'll face such calls from within his party.


There's also the potential for a chaotic convention in August if the party has to choose a new nominee, given nthe ideological divisions within the party.

After the debate, former senior Obama White House advisor David Axelrod, who reportedly triggered Biden's ire in the past over raising questions about the president's standing, was unrelenting in his analysis.

"I think there was a sense of shock actually on how he came out at the beginning of this debate," Axelrod said on CNN, while trying to give Biden some credit for addressing issues like abortion, "how his voice sounded — he seemed a little disoriented at the beginning of the debate. He did get stronger as the debate went on, but by that time, I think the panic had set in."

Axelrod agreed with other CNN panelists that there will now be discussions on whether Biden should step aside.

The first debate was a complete disaster for Joe Biden (2024)


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