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Joe Biden falters in first poll debate

Joe Biden falters in first poll debate

Opinion polls over the last few months showed voters impressed by neither Biden nor Trump. But now Trump is seen to be a winner by default, because Biden, who seemed confused and unable to take on his opponent on facts, turned the spotlight on his age.

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Last Updated : 28 June 2024, 23:17 IST
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The presidential election debates are an American invention, more specifically, an invention of American television. Since the first debate between John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon, watched by some 70 million viewers, these live television encounters have had the potential to turn elections. With the US presidency’s potential to impact the fate of the world, the debate is watched across the globe now. During these encounters, US voters judge candidates not just on the basis of the policies they promise to bring to the table, but also on their clothes, their tone, their fumbles and pauses, and their body language. By these metrics, incumbent candidate President Joe Biden appears to have lost the election already. Panic has gripped the Democratic Party that the 81-year-old Biden spoke haltingly, could be barely heard, and seemed lost for words at several points.

The economy, immigration, and Russia figured in the debate, but not so much Biden’s support for Israel’s war on Gaza. His opponent, the 77-year-old Donald Trump, a former president and a convicted felon, spouted falsehoods during the entire debate, including on abortion, even claiming the pro-abortionists wanted to “kill babies” in their eighth or ninth month in the womb and even after they are born. Opinion polls over the last few months showed voters impressed by neither Biden nor Trump. But now Trump is seen to be a winner by default, because Biden, who seemed confused and unable to take on his opponent on facts, turned the spotlight on his age, a subject of much debate over the last year when he declared he would run for a second term.

Such is the tyranny of the US presidential debate. It can swing votes, sway the minds of indecisive voters, and turn committed party loyalists against their candidate. Usually, three or four debates are held, and they take place after the party conventions, at which the party officially nominates its presidential candidate. The Republican convention is to be held in mid-July, and the Democrats will hold theirs in late August. Biden agreed to advance the debate — this is the earliest ever that it has been held — partly to press home Trump’s conviction, but mostly to message away from the topic of his age. Instead, the first debate of this US election has thrown up something else altogether — calls for Biden to step down and make way for a more suitable Democrat who could be nominated at the party convention. That may not happen; but if it does, several aspirants may throw their hat in the ring, including Vice-President Kamala Harris. The world is as interested as the average US voter, if not more, in what happens next. 

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