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Biden, Trump in Atlanta ahead of high-stakes debate

Biden, Trump in Atlanta ahead of high-stakes debate

Biden, Trump in Atlanta ahead of high-stakes debate

Joe Biden and Donald Trump face off Thursday in a crucial US presidential debate that has huge stakes for both candidates as they fight for any edge in their close race for the White House.

Millions of Americans will tune in to the highly anticipated clash — the opening salvo of what promises to be a bruising summer of campaigning in a deeply polarized country still scarred by the chaos and violence of the 2020 election.

With only two debates this election cycle and national polls showing the pair locked in the tightest contest, Thursday’s event at CNN headquarters in Atlanta — beginning at 9:00 p.m. (0100 GMT Friday) — takes on added importance.

For many voters, the choice between Biden, 81, the oldest, and Trump, 78, now a convicted felon, is an uninspiring one — a dynamic that both candidates must buck.

For Trump, an instinctive political pugilist, the challenge will be to rein in the aggressive tendencies he unleashed — to his detriment — in their chaotic first debate four years ago.

The Democratic president will be desperate to avoid any major blunders that could underscore concerns about his age.

It will also focus on his key campaign message that Trump is an existential threat to American democracy.

Biden arrived in Georgia about six hours before the showdown and took the opportunity to greet supporters outside his Atlanta hotel.

His challenger later landed aboard his private jet, punching supporters on the tarmac before dropping into a waiting vehicle.

There is certainly no love lost between the two candidates, and both sides have agreed to a series of debate rules designed to minimize the prospect of a shouting match.

There will be no studio audience, depriving them of the momentum that comes from rousing supporters, and the microphones will cut when the candidate’s speaking time is up.

To coincide with the debate, both camps unleashed a series of new attack ads, with Trump’s team releasing TV spots accusing Biden of mismanaging the economy and encouraging illegal immigration.

In a morning post on his Truth Social platform, Trump argued that Biden is the real threat to democracy, “and a threat to the very survival and existence of our country.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party paid for five massive billboards in Atlanta that betray Trump over his legal troubles.

“Donald, welcome to Atlanta for the first time since you became a convicted felon. Congratulations – or whatever…” the signs said.

– Neck and neck in the polls –

Trump enjoys a slight lead in key swing states, but the overall poll looks extremely tight in an election that could be decided by a few photo finishes in a handful of battlegrounds.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows Trump leading Biden nationally, 49 percent to 45 percent.

Both rivals take the stage for the 90-minute debate, seeking to allay fears of serious political liabilities.

Biden faces the most concern about his mental acuity, with voters far more likely to raise his age than Trump’s, despite the Republican being just three years younger.

Ahead of the debate, both Trump and Biden made missteps, stumbled over words or appeared confused.

Trump is also mired in controversy over his incendiary rhetoric, his recent conviction on 34 counts of falsifying business records and fears that he will weaponize the presidency to settle his personal accounts.

– Fine tuning or free running –

Biden has spent the last week off the radar since his Camp David retreat near Washington, fine-tuning his lines of attack in mock debates under real TV lighting.

Trump’s preparation has been more relaxed, eschewing dress rehearsals in favor of informal policy roundtables and the strategy of debating workshops with rally crowds.

Aides have encouraged him to focus on his perceived strength in the economy and crime, while Biden will seek to expose Trump as disturbed and unfit for office.

The Trump campaign has repeatedly characterized Biden as weak and incompetent, but has changed tack following warnings that setting low expectations for the Democratic president would only help him.

ft/mlm/st

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