HomePoliticsThe first Biden-Trump debate of 2024 will be about new battles between...

The first Biden-Trump debate of 2024 will be about new battles between old rivals

WASHINGTON – Four years ago, Joe Biden rehearsed for debates on a lectern in the basement of his Delaware home. Now, as president, he can pick a room in the White House, his retreat at Camp David, Maryland, or almost anywhere else in the country.

But no matter how much the atmosphere around Biden has changed – whether it’s the room he’s in, the ups and downs of the economy or the outbreak of wars in Eastern Europe and the Middle East – his preparations for rematch debates promise former President Donald Trump are remarkably consistent with his 2020 sessions.

According to three people close to him, Trump is reluctant to practice for debates — let alone participate in the full-on mock drills familiar to most presidential candidates.

“What is that?” a Trump aide responded with dry humor when asked about Trump’s plans to prepare.

And yet on June 27 — the first time two men who have held the Oval Office will meet in a televised presidential debate — they will have four years of new material to fight over. Trump’s main message is that he is strong and Biden is weak. Biden is that he cares about Americans, while Trump only cares about himself.

Trump advisers say he doesn’t need formal rehearsals because he spends so much time interacting with voters and the media — at rallies like the one he held last week in the Bronx, New York, at pop-ins at local eateries, in a — one-on-one interviews and at almost daily news conferences at the Manhattan courthouse where he is on trial.

Biden’s “puppet masters are in complete panic trying to figure out how to support their weak candidate,” Trump spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt said in a statement. “President Trump, on the other hand, gives 90-minute speeches to tens of thousands of supporters and conducts one awkward interview after another, talking about how we’re going to bring back the great Trump economy and re-secure our borders.”

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Both candidates risk making the debate about themselves – or even too much about their track record – while convincing voters will listen to their plans for the future. That’s an especially acute danger for Trump, who rarely misses the opportunity to falsely claim he won the last election.

“One of the issues here for him is how much he talks about 2017 through 2020, his own record, how much he talks about Joe Biden. [and] How much does he talk about his own second term in a forward-looking way?’ said one person familiar with his previous debate prep sessions. ‘Time will tell whether he is very progressive. I would definitely recommend it.”

Biden advisers say his campaign will lay the groundwork for the first debate through paid advertising, media coverage and grassroots communications designed to support Trump’s nomination of Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn abortion protections to highlight his embrace of election conspiracy theories and his efforts to overturn his plans. The 2020 defeat is, as they say, an economic agenda that would “make his rich friends richer and drive up costs for the middle class.”

“In the month leading up to that first debate, the Biden-Harris campaign will focus on Trump’s dangerous campaign promises and unhinged rhetoric,” Biden campaign chairman Jen O’Malley Dillon wrote in a memo last week. “We will ensure that the voters who will decide this election are reminded of the chaos and damage Trump has caused as president – ​​and why they booted him out four years ago.”

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Comparing their presidencies is one lens through which they can be expected to address the fight over the economy, abortion rights, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, the federal response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the future of American governance. .

The White House and the Biden campaign have yet to finalize the list of debate preparation participants. But Ron Klain, a former Biden White House chief of staff who keeps a file of every question asked at past presidential debates, will reprise the role he has played as a prep guru for several Democratic presidential candidates.

A source close to Biden said the list of participants would likely include White House aides Anita Dunn, Mike Donilon, Steve Ricchetti and Bruce Reed; O’Malley Dillon; and campaign co-chair Cedric Richmond. This source also listed author Jon Meacham and Michael Sheehan, who coaches Democratic candidates on oratorio style, as possible preparation helpers.

It is not yet clear whether Biden lawyer Bob Bauer, who played Trump in the 2020 practice sessions, will do so again.

Klain and Dunn both declined to comment for this article, saying they wanted to keep the entire effort private.

“We are not going to argue,” Dunn said in a text message.

To the extent that Trump can be brought together in customized preparation sessions, they will likely be very informal discussions about issues and tactics.

“Conventional preparation is not something he thinks he needs to do,” said the person familiar with previous debate sessions. “Part of it is he wants to save his best performance for the performance. Part of it is he thinks, ‘I’ve got this.'”

In their first debate of 2020, Trump was criticized — even from some fellow Republicans — for repeatedly interrupting Biden and moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. Biden set a trap of sorts by interjecting in the opening minutes of the debate, which appeared to irritate Trump and prompt him to become hyper-aggressive.

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When Biden urged him to disavow the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group, Trump said they should “take a step back” ahead of the election. Oddly enough, he accused Biden of wanting to get rid of cows.

At their second and final debate in Nashville, Tennessee, in October of that year, Trump’s stance was more traditional and the two men fought more about substance than style.

Trump’s inner circle still includes some of the people who helped him focus on the 2020 debates. Communications strategist Jason Miller, for example, is a senior adviser to his campaign, and Stephen Miller, a top policy adviser in the Trump White House, remains close to him. But two of Trump’s three senior advisers, Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, were not in top positions last time.

Gone from the debate-preparing crowd are then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie; Bill Stepien, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager; and Hope Hicks, a longtime Trump aide who does not work on the campaign.

It’s not clear how many debates influence the outcomes of presidential elections, which involve billions of dollars in advertising by campaigns and their allies. But they are rare opportunities for voters to see the candidates side by side and counter each other’s arguments on issues and character.

Trump and Biden have agreed to meet for a second time on September 10, a schedule Biden proposed that would allow 2.5 months between meetings.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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