Who won the Biden-Trump debate? Biden's freeze draws age concerns (2024)

WASHINGTON – Presidential debates are always about expectations. And Thursday’s verbal sparring match between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump was no exception.

The stakes were highest for Biden who, at age 81, was already battling perceptions he is too elderly for a second term. Meanwhile, Trump, 78, was facing concerns from moderate and swing voters about his at times bombastic style.

The biggest moment of the night came early, when Biden froze for several seconds while answering a question about the economy.

That – and allof the many other gaffes of the evening − will be replayed on cable news shows and shared thousands of times on social media for weeks to come.But howwill it influence the 2024 election?

Here’s a breakdown of who came out on top and who fell short in the immediate aftermath.

Prep for the polls: See who is running for president and compare where they stand on key issues in our Voter Guide

Trump showed more energy than Biden

Experts USA TODAY spoke with said they saw sharp differencesin the stamina of the two candidates on stage Thursday night, and they said Biden’s low-energy demeanor could hurt him for months to come.

In one of the most defining moments of the debate, Biden took a prolonged pause and froze while answering a question about the economy. After stuttering, the president continued, but began talking about COVID-19 and Medicare.

Even some of Biden's Democratic supporters felt his freeze on stage and his somewhat wooden performance tipped the scales in Trump's favor.

Trumpsought to highlight Biden’s slower responses, at one point saying, “I really don't know what he said at the end of this, and I don't think he knows what he said, either."

Thomas Whalen, a presidential historian and professor at Boston University, said Biden was “looking his age,” while Trump was “more controlled and sticking to his talking points.”

Aaron Kall, director of Debate for the University of Michigan Debate Program, suggested Biden’s pauses “could spur endless news cycles about (his) age and fitness to serve another term in office.”

New debate format aimed to decrease chaos

If seeing Trump and Biden on stage together again didn’t provide enoughdeja vu, their matchup also marked the first time since 1960 that a presidential debate was held without a live audience. The last time was when John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon clashed.

The format was designed to eliminate immediate reactions to candidates’ remarks. Aaron Kall, director of debate for the University of Michigan, suggested it forced genuine responses rather than scripted statements from the candidates.

Rather than rely on audience energy, Trump and Biden had to “trust their guts and instincts and previous debate experiences,” Kall said.

Theuse of muted microphones in the debate also nearly eliminated the type of candidate crosstalk that has plagued past debates, including most recently during the GOP primary.

Who won the Biden-Trump debate? Biden's freeze draws age concerns (2)

Georgia voters are central focus

Trump and Biden weren’t the only ones in the spotlight Thursday night. All-important Georgia voters were, too.

The location of the debate at CNN’s studios in Atlanta underscored Georgia’s role as crucial swing state in the election and served as a reminder thatthe candidate'smessages − and bickering − will echo far beyond the stage.

Biden won Georgia by just under 12,000 votes in 2020. But recent polling this year has shown Trump with a slight edge over his competitor in the key battleground territory.

And the side-by-side comparison of the two candidates Thursdaycould very well sway the minds of undecided voters in the state. It was one of few opportunities the public will have to hear from the two men directly and judge for themselves who is the better pick for the country.

Not to mention that the location gave both candidates an opportunity tocampaign around the Atlanta suburbs. Trump called in to a local barbershop on Wednesday to talk with a group his campaign called the Black American Business Leaders Barbershop Roundtable. And Biden’s campaign said the president planned to attend watch parties across the city after the debate to talk with voters.

Also of significance: The debate occurred only a few miles from the jail where Trump was booked last year on charges related to claims that he conspired to overturn the 2020 election.

A major money boost for Democrats and Republicans

Both major parties are expected to raise big dollars off Thursday’s affair. Similarly well-watched events have brought in the green for the two candidates.

Biden’s campaign said he raised $10 million in the 24 hours after the State of the Union address. After Trump’s felony conviction in his New York hush money trial, his campaign said it raised $34.8 million in small-dollar donations.

And both groups we’re leaning into their fundraising.

Hours before the debate began, Biden’s team sent out a message telling supporters that he was “counting on” them to donate at least $30.

“Tens of thousands of new supporters stepped up following my debates against Trump in 2020. And tonight, can’t be any different,” the message said.

The Democratic Party of Georgia also hosted a watch party charging $24 per advance ticket. Former Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler was similarly hosting a high-dollar event for Trump the night of the debate.

Biden’s campaign said ithad its best grassroots fundraising hours of the entire campaign leading up to the debate.

False claims abound

Ashley Koning,director of the Rutgers Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, argued that “facts and truth” were the biggest losers of the night.

Both Trump and Biden made false comments throughout the debate that largely went unchecked by the moderators.

Trump repeated claims that the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol was former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s fault. Trump claimed he offered Pelosi “10,000 soldiers” to stop the attack. Pelosi’s office has said, however, that she never received such an officer and that she wouldn’t have had the power to refuse either way.

The former real estate mogul also claimed the U.S. southern border is the most dangerous place in the world. There is no evidence to suggest this.

Biden also made incorrect claims. At one point, he claimed he was “the only president this century ... that doesn’t have any troops dying anywhere in the world.”

In 2021, during Biden’s presidency, 13 U.S. service members were killedin a suicide bombing attack in Afghanistan as thousands tried to flee the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

RFK and third-party candidates absent from the conversation

Noticeably absent from the CNN stage? Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy didn’t meet the qualifications for the debate, which required candidates to appear on a “sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 electoral vote thresholds to win the presidency” and receive at least 15% in four qualifying national polls, according to CNN.

In a three-way matchup with Biden and Trump, Kennedy receives 10.7% of the vote, according to a Real Clear Politics average of polling.

Kennedy counterprogrammed the prime-time debate by answering the same questions as Biden and Trump live on a social media stream and on his website. But he remained largely out of sight for most voters on a night that centered on the two major party candidates.

Who won the Biden-Trump debate? Biden's freeze draws age concerns (2024)


Who is leading in the 2024 presidential polls? ›

President: general election, 2024 AVG.
June 282,315Biden 43% Trump 45%
June 21-2310,159Biden 44% Trump 44%
June 17-211,878Biden 49% Trump 50%
June 5-212,192Biden 42% Trump 44% Kennedy 14%
June 5-212,029
21 more rows

Who won the presidential campaign? ›

Biden ultimately received the majority in the Electoral College with 306 electoral votes, while Trump received 232. Trump was the first president to lose re-election since George H. W. Bush in 1992.

Who won the presidential debate in Fox? ›

During the debate and after, LiveNOW from FOX asked viewers in an unscientific poll who they think won based on their performance, and over 79,000 people weighed in. An overwhelming majority (93.7%) voted for Trump over Biden (6.30%).

Who was the first president to debate? ›

If some people who listened to the radio in 1960 thought Richard Nixon won the presidential debate with John F. Kennedy, then maybe people reading the transcript of Thursday night's match-up would think President Biden won. Maybe. But elections aren't won in transcripts.

What are the 5 requirements to be president? ›

Legal requirements for presidential candidates have remained the same since the year Washington accepted the presidency. As directed by the Constitution, a presidential candidate must be a natural born citizen of the United States, a resident for 14 years, and 35 years of age or older.

Who runs Biden campaign? ›

National staff
Joe Biden presidential campaign national staff, 2024
StaffPositionTwitter handle
Jennifer O'Malley DillonCampaign chairwoman@jomalleydillon
Becca SiegelSenior advisor@beccasiegel
Mike DonilonChief strategistN/A
12 more rows

How many states did Obama win in 2012? ›

In reality Obama's victory over Romney was far greater, winning 332 electoral votes to Romney's 206. Romney lost all but one of nine battleground states, and received 47 percent of the nationwide popular vote to Obama's 51 percent.

How long is a presidential term? ›

Article II, Section 1, Clause 1: The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows.

Who runs the presidential debates? ›

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is a nonprofit corporation established in 1987 under the joint sponsorship of the Democratic and Republican political parties in the United States.

What was the first presidential debate on TV? ›

1960 Kennedy–Nixon debates

The first general election presidential debate was 1960 United States presidential debates, held on September 26, 1960, between Senator John F. Kennedy, the Democratic nominee, and Vice President Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee, at CBS's WBBM-TV in Chicago.

How long is the presidential debate tonight? ›

How long is the presidential debate tonight? The debate is 90 minutes and includes two commercial breaks, CNN said.

Who was the first good president? ›

Scholar survey summary
No.PresidentSiena 2022
1George Washington3
2John Adams16
3Thomas Jefferson5
4James Madison10
9 more rows

Who was the first president to be a Democrat? ›

Andrew Jackson | The White House.

Who was the very first president in history? ›

On April 30, 1789, George Washington, standing on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York, took his oath of office as the first President of the United States.

Who won the presidential election of 1932 what did he promise in his campaign? ›

Elected President

Roosevelt united the party, campaigning on the failures of the Hoover administration. He promised recovery with a "New Deal" for the American people.

Who won the first presidential election following the end of the Civil War? ›

In the first election of the Reconstruction Era, Republican nominee Ulysses S. Grant defeated Horatio Seymour of the Democratic Party. It was the first presidential election to take place after the conclusion of the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery.

Who ended up winning the presidential election in 1932 and why? ›

On November 8, 1932, Franklin Roosevelt became the first Democrat in 80 years to win the presidency by a majority vote, rather than a plurality.

How many presidential elections have there been since 1776? ›

In 54 of the 59 total elections held so far (about 91 percent), the winner of the national popular vote has also carried the Electoral College vote. The winners of the nationwide popular vote and the Electoral College vote have differed only in close elections.

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