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2024 Presidential Debate: Policy Breakdown

Written by Carla Elalam

Edited by Annika Lilja

For the first time since 2020, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump appeared in a CNN-hosted debate on June 28, 2024. Millions of Americans were captivated by the much-awaited debate, which sparked comments and posts on many social media platforms criticizing both candidate's performances.

The discussion was opened by moderator Jake Tapper addressing the economy, which has been voters’ top issue for several years. President Biden defended the measures his government took to revive the economy, holding Trump accountable for its initial decline. He noted attempts to reduce the financial strain on working-class families and successes in creating jobs. Trump, on the other hand, took pride in the economic gains made during his presidency and claimed credit for the expansion of the economy and the creation of jobs prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Criticizing Biden for carrying out COVID-19 regulations, he held him accountable for inflation, stating that the economy was far stronger before Biden took office. 

Then the subject of abortion came up for discussion. The importance of recent decisions made by the Supreme Court, such as the one allowing emergency abortions in Idaho temporarily despite the state’s restrictive ban, was emphasized by moderator Dana Bash. Trump claimed victory over Roe v. Wade, stating that it put the decision back into the hands of the states. He stated that he would support the Supreme Court’s ruling on the issue and would not obstruct the purchase of abortion medication. In addition, Trump restated his support for the life of the mother, rape, and incest as exceptions, and he accused Democrats of advocating for excessive late-term and post-birth abortions, claims that Biden refuted. According to Biden, the majority of constitutional scholars upheld Roe v. Wade at the time of its decision and did so until it was overturned. He criticized the idea of leaving abortion rights to the states, comparing it to delegating civil rights to individual states. Biden stressed the need for federal protection of abortion rights, stating "If Americans send me a Congress that supports the right to choose, I promise you I will restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land again.” 

The discussion then moved to immigration and border security. Tapper questioned President Biden about the record number of migrants crossing the southern border and the resulting challenges for border states and cities. Biden highlighted efforts to secure bipartisan agreements, increase border patrols, and enhance asylum officer numbers. He defended his administration's changes to immigration policies and emphasized the reduction in illegal border crossings compared to Trump's tenure. Trump countered by claiming that the border was the safest in history under his administration and accused Biden of opening it up to criminals, terrorists, and other dangerous individuals. He blamed Biden for the increase in illegal immigration and associated crimes. Trump reiterated his commitment to restoring border security and criticized Biden's handling of the situation.

Other topics that were touched on in the debate included the climate crisis, racial inequality, law enforcement and crime, and the legal issues of President Trump. Throughout the debate, Trump was caught with many lies. According to The Guardian, “He falsely claimed Democrats want abortions up until and ‘even after birth.’ He said without evidence that Nancy Pelosi refused his offer for national guard troops on 6 January 2021 to respond to an insurrection he encouraged.” He also dodged many questions asked by CNN moderators, one of them regarding the January 6 insurrection. Voters were also disappointed with Democratic candidate President Biden's performance, with many attributing their concerns to his age, which raised questions about his ability to lead the party effectively into the future.

 Overall, the American people all around the country felt the debate to be a weak performance from both candidates. “As Biden's convoluted answers and poor performance sparked panic among Democrats, Trump dodged questions in favor of offering lies and misleading statements about his own political record. At one point, the candidates argued about who was a better golfer” (Business Insider). With the November election approaching, Americans are now more conflicted than ever about who to choose as their next president.

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“Biden’s Poor Performance and Trump’s Lies: Four Key Takeaways from the Debate.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 28 June 2024,

Jr, Bernd Debusmann. “Biden Vows to Fight on and Beat Trump after Shaky Debate.” BBC News, BBC, 29 June 2024,

“Read: Biden-Trump Debate Transcript | CNN Politics.” CNN, Cable News Network, 28 June 2024,


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