Biden’s performance leaves supporters worried after first presidential debate

Biden's performance leaves supporters worried after first presidential debate
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
President Joe Biden, right, and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, left, during a presidential debate hosted by CNN, Thursday, June 27, 2024, in Atlanta.

A shaky start from a stumbling Joe Biden left some Democrat supporters concerned the president was not able to push back on rival Donald Trump’s oftentimes exaggerated or inaccurate claims during the first presidential debate ahead of the November election.

There were gasps from Democratic supporters during a Thursday evening watch party in South Philadelphia when Biden lost his train of thought while trying to make a point about tax rates near the beginning of the debate.

Danina Moore was a bit uneasy following 81-year-old Biden’s uneven performance, including a raspy voice and rambling responses.

“Hopefully Biden can pull it off,” Moore said with a sigh.

The president has faced consistent criticism about his age and the concerns were likely not quelled by his conduct on the stage in Atlanta.

When asked during the debate, Biden pointed out that Trump is 78.

Trump, in response, pointed to the two cognitive tests he took, saying he “aced them,” and called for Biden to take one.

Trump appeared energetic but not always factual while Biden’s jarring speech and missteps seemed more pronounced.

The response in the news and on social media reflected the debate’s lack of fireworks and occasional fizzles. Some reports suggested Democrats were having conversations about whether Biden should remain at the top of the ticket.

“Biden was awful. And Trump was as good as Trump could be,” said Matthew Lebo, a specialist in U.S. politics and chair of the political science department at Western University in London, Ont.

Biden’s top job was to assuage fears that he’s too old to do the job and that he has four good years left in him, Lebo added. “He really failed.”

Trump teed up Biden for an easy “home run” with outlandish comments around abortion and crime, Lebo said. But the current president struggled in both words and demeanour to respond.

Democrats and Republicans were hoping the early debate would light a spark for their respective supporters. Experts have said many Americans are not engaging with the campaigns and a lot of would-be voters aren’t backing either candidate.

At the Philadelphia watch party, Republican George Williams said he thought Trump walked away the more competent and coherent debater.

“I think Trump did well tonight.”

While Philadelphia is generally a Democratic stronghold, Pennsylvania, where Biden was born, has turned into a battleground state that could be crucial to win the presidency.

Trump took it in 2016 before it swung back to Biden in 2020 — both by narrow margins.

The matchup Thursday saw the current president and his political rival exchange personal barbs as well as criticism over their legacies in the Oval Office, from immigration and crime to foreign policy and inflation. At one point it devolved into jabs about each other’s golf skills.

Biden said when Trump left office, “things were in chaos.” He said the COVID-19 pandemic was poorly handled and the economy was in freefall. Biden spoke about his record on jobs and the cost of medication.

Trump said his presidency brought “the greatest economy in the history of our country.” He also criticized Biden’s withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

Williams said nothing from the debate would sway his opinion. He’s basing his decision on Trump’s first term as president. “I’m already sold.”

Canadians were likely listening for plans around international trade as both candidates have promoted protectionist policies during their tenures. Whoever wins the election will be in power during the looming review of the Canada-United States-Mexico trade pact in 2026.

Trump was asked about his pitch for a 10 per cent tariff on all goods coming in to the U.S.

“It’s just going to cause countries that have been ripping us off for years, like China — and many others, in all fairness to China — it’s going to just force them to pay us a lot of money, reduce our deficit tremendously and give us a lot of power for other things,” Trump said.

Lebo said the whole world is paying attention to this election.

“Debates don’t usually matter but I think last night mattered quite a bit.”

By Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 28, 2024.

— With files from The Associated Press

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!