Biden falters in high-stakes debate, Trump spews falsehoods

In a historic clash of personality and policy, Joe Biden and Donald Trump took the stage for the first presidential debate of the 2024 election.

The showdown provided a rare opportunity for both candidates to move the needle in what has been a stubbornly tight race for the White House, but at the end of the night, Biden's halting performance raised new concerns among Democrats and cause Republicans to celebrate.

The debate was a rematch for Biden and Trump, who faced each other twice in 2020, but a first-of-its-kind format and a vastly different political landscape presented new challenges for the two rivals.

Latest Developments

Jun 27, 11:21 PM

Bitter debate offers little new insight into Biden, Trump policy goals

For the most part, tonight's debate revealed nothing new about what Biden and Trump think on major issues from the economy, immigration, foreign policy and reproductive rights.

Each candidate reiterated positions they've already touted countless times on the campaign stump.

Instead, they largely focused on criticizing each other's past records and lobbing personal attacks.

Jun 27, 10:47 PM

Trump targets Biden during his closing argument

In his two-minute closing argument, Trump went after Biden's record abroad in a personal attack.

"They don't respect you throughout the world," he said.

Trump said he had the largest tax cut and the largest regulation cuts in history, but the country is now "exploding."

"We're a failing nation, but it's not going to be failing anymore," he said. "We're going to make it great again."

Jun 27, 11:08 PM

Trump deflects when asked if will accept election results

Trump went to other topics when asked if he would accept the results of the 2024 election and had to be asked the question several times.

The former president finally responded, "If it's a fair and legal and good election absolutely," before adding that he would have accepted the last election if not for "the fraud." There was no evidence of widespread election fraud in the 2020 election.

Biden pushed back that Trump's fraud claims were debunked by courts, telling him, "You can't stand the loss."

"I doubt you'll accept it because you're a whiner," he said.

Jun 27, 10:41 PM

Biden delivers closing argument

"We have made significant progress from the debacle that was left by President Trump in his last term," Biden said.

Biden then went on to summarize some of his signature policies. On the economy, he vowed he will not raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000 a year and to continue his work to reduce health care costs, child care costs and give families financial breathing room.

"We're going to continue to fight to bring down inflation and give people a break," Biden said in closing.

Jun 27, 10:37 PM

Candidates asked to address opioid crisis

The candidates were asked what they could do to help Americans battling the opioid crisis in the U.S.

After being prompted to respond to the question, Trump said that during his term as president they had "great equipment" and drug-detecting dogs to find illicit drugs at the border.

Biden said the U.S. needs machinery that can detect fentanyl and more agents at the border, and added that the U.S. is coming down "very hard" on countries in Asia that are producing fentanyl.

Jun 27, 10:32 PM

Biden, Trump asked about voter concerns about their age

Moderator Dana Bash asked Biden, 81, and Trump, 78, to address voter concerns about their age.

"First of all, I spent half my career being criticized for being the youngest person in politics," Biden said. "I was the second youngest person ever elected to the United States Senate. And now I'm the oldest. This guy's three years younger and a lot less competent."

Biden said voters should look at his record and what his administration's accomplished.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden and Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump participate in the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios, on June 27, 2024, in Atlanta. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden and Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump participate in the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios, on June 27, 2024, in Atlanta. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Trump pointed to the "cognitive test" he's taken. In 2018, he took the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, a test designed to detect early signs of memory loss and other mild cognitive impairment.

"He took none," Trump said of Biden. "I'd like to see him take one, just one, a really easy one. Like go through the first five questions, he couldn't do it."

Jun 27, 10:23 PM

Incumbent presidents have often had a tough first debate

Biden had a poor start to this debate, and if he ends up being viewed as the "loser" tonight, he'd be just the latest incumbent president to go through this. Incumbent presidents like Ronald Reagan in 1984, George W. Bush in 2004, Barack Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2020 all lost 2 to 3 points in the polls after their first debate.

Reagan, the last president to face real questions about his age -- he was 73 in 1984 -- had a meandering performance that prompted questions about whether he had gotten too old for the job. Reagan shot back in the second debate against Democratic nominee Walter Mondale, who was in his mid-50s, with the famous line: "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." Reagan, however, also had a roaring economy, which helped him win a landslide reelection victory.

-Geoffrey Skelley, 538

Jun 27, 10:14 PM

Biden has a cold, campaign says

An hour in and here is the Biden campaign spin on what so far has been a rocky performance by the president.

Biden has a cold (but tested negative for COVID-19), the campaign confirms. They haven't offered any explanation for why they didn't disclose this sooner.

Overall, the campaign says they are feeling fine. They agree it was a slow start but say he's found his groove.

-ABC News' Mary Bruce and Molly Nagle

Jun 27, 10:12 PM

Biden attacks Trump over scandals

Trump has made several comments about going after his political opponents and retribution. Asked to clarify what he meant, Trump replied, "Well, I said my retribution is going to be success."

He also contended that he's done nothing wrong despite his numerous criminal and civil cases.

Biden fired back contending that Trump's claims that he has the right to seek retribution is wrong. He then went after Trump over his various scandals.

"The crimes you are still charged with and think of all the civil penalties you have, how many billions of dollars ... and civil penalties? For molesting a woman in public for doing a whole range of things ... having sex with a porn star ... while your wife was pregnant? What would you be talking about? You have the morals of an alley cat," Biden said.

Jun 27, 10:09 PM

First half of debate highlights Biden's age issue

After a stifled and stumbling opening statement, Biden has had some good replies to Trump when talking about policy -- especially on abortion and Jan. 6. But that will be little comfort for his campaign, which is fighting hard against the impression that Biden is too old to hold office. In a 538/Ipsos poll of Americans released today, 40% of Americans said they rated Biden's mental fitness to be president as "terrible," compared to 35% for Trump -- and fewer Americans rate him positively for his physical fitness to lead, too.

538's election forecasting model currently gives Biden and Trump each a 50-in-100 chance of winning the election. Biden's initial impression could prevent him from making sizable gains over those numbers, despite the rest of his performance.

-538's G. Elliott Morris

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