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How Biden and Trump are Taking Very Different Approaches to Preparing for Next Week's Debate
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By Associated Press
Published 4 weeks ago on
June 21, 2024

Biden and Trump gear up for a high-stakes debate showdown, each taking a unique approach to prep for the faceoff. (AP Photo)

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NEW YORK — President Joe Biden begins an intense period of private preparations Friday at Camp David for what may be the most consequential presidential debate in decades.

The 81-year-old Democrat’s team is aware he cannot afford an underwhelming performance when he faces Republican rival Donald Trump for 90 minutes on live television June 27. Biden’s team expects aggressive attacks on his physical and mental strength, his record on the economy and immigration and even his family.

Trump’s Informal Approach

Trump, 78 and ever confident, will stay on the campaign trail before going to his Florida estate next week for two days of private meetings as part of an informal prep process.

The ex-president’s allies are pushing him to stay focused on his governing plans but expect him to be tested by pointed questions about his unrelenting focus on election fraud, his role in the erosion of abortion rights and his unprecedented legal baggage.

A Debate Full of Firsts

The CNN debate will be full of firsts, with the potential to reshape the presidential race. Never before in the modern era have two presumptive nominees met on the debate stage so early in the general election season. Never before have two White House contenders faced off at such advanced ages, with widespread questions about their readiness.

And never before has a general election debate participant been saddled with a felony conviction. The debate stage meeting comes just two weeks before Trump is scheduled to be sentenced on 34 felony counts in his New York hush money trial.

Pressure on Biden

The ground rules for the June 27 debate, the first of two scheduled meetings, are unusual.

The candidates agreed to meet at a CNN studio in Atlanta with no audience. Each candidate’s microphone will be muted, except when it’s his turn to speak. No props or prewritten notes will be allowed onstage. The candidates will be given only a pen, a pad of paper and a bottle of water.

There will be no opening statements. A coin flip determined Biden would stand at the podium to the viewer’s right, while Trump would deliver the final closing statement.

The next debate won’t be until September. Any stumbles June 27 will be hard to erase or replace quickly.

Biden arrived at Camp David on Thursday night and is expected to hunker down with senior campaign aides until the debate. While traveling to the mountainside retreat, he gave a thumbs up to reporters when asked how debate prep was going.

The president’s aides have been reluctant to share details about his preparations, run by former chief of staff Ron Klain. But they’ve signaled he’s preparing to be aggressive and wouldn’t shy away from using the term “convicted felon” to describe his opponent.

Trump Projecting Confidence

Trump’s team sees the faceoff as an opportunity to demonstrate a clear contrast with Biden’s leadership ability and governing record.

And while downplaying his preparations, Trump aides have a pattern of insisting he doesn’t prepare for debates when, in fact, he does — in his own way. Instead of mock debates with lecterns and stand-ins or hours spent poring over policy books, the ex-president is expected to rely on a series of conversations about policy and strategy with aides and political allies.

Trump will also make public appearances over the coming days.

On Saturday, he’s set to host a rally in Philadelphia and deliver a keynote address to a conference of Christian conservatives in Washington. He also has a fundraiser in New Orleans on Monday before going to his Florida estate for meetings.

“Biden needs rehearsals with handlers to find some way to explain this mess he’s made of our nation,” Trump spokesman Brian Hughes said. “President Trump is always prepared to present to Americans his record of success and Biden’s weakness and failures.”

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