Misinformation, abortion and Democratic ‘panic’: Key takeaways from the first Biden-Trump debate

Donald Trump and Joe Biden have concluded their first presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle in Atlanta, Georgia.

Biden’s performance was defined by his rambling answers apparently low energy, while Trump spent the debate spreading misinformation and failing to answer questions.

Biden was accompanied by his wife Jill Biden. Trump’s wife, Melania, has been noticeably absent from the campaign trail — and Thursday night’s event was no different.

Now, social media is in a frenzy as users digest Thursday night’s chaotic spectacle. At the same time, Democratic strategists panicked over Biden’s less-than-optimal performance amid growing criticisms about his age.

Some two-thirds of viewers agreed that Trump came out of the debate on top following Biden’s meandering performance, according to a CNN snap poll taken Thursday night. This marks a shift from their last debate in 2020, when the majority of viewers labeled Biden the winner.

Here are our key takeaways from tonight’s debate:

Donald Trump (left) and Joe Biden (right) pictured at the first presidential debate of 2024. Biden’s performance was defined by his weak appearance and rambling thoughts, while Trump dodged questions and spread misinformation (AP)
Donald Trump (left) and Joe Biden (right) pictured at the first presidential debate of 2024. Biden’s performance was defined by his weak appearance and rambling thoughts, while Trump dodged questions and spread misinformation (AP)

Biden has shaky start

Biden’s performance was defined by his soft, raspy voice and rambling thoughts. The president regularly tripped over his words and lost his train of thought.

At one point, after Biden defended his executive actions to curb immigration, Trump said: “I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence – and I don’t think he knows what he said either.”

Vice President Kamala Harris even remarked on the president’s performance.

“Yes there was a slow start, but it was a strong finish,” she told CNN. It was later revealed the president has a cold.

Leading up to the debate Trump and his cohort spread conspiracies that the president would be using amphetamines, pounding Mountain Dew or wearing an earpiece during the debate. There is no evidence for any of these claims and Thursday’s performance seemed to show Biden was not prescribed any stimulants.

Trump says US was ‘respected all over the world’ on Jan 6

Biden confronted Trump in-person for the first time about his role in the January 6 2021 insurrection. The former president did not answer repeated questions from moderator Jake Tapper about voters who are concerned about Trump’s role.

Instead, Trump claimed the US was “respected all over the world” that day. He also made several false claims about the insurrection

These falsehoods included that it was “a relatively small number of people that went to the Capitol” during the January 6 2021 insurrection. In truth, thousands of people went to the riots that day.

He also claimed that Nancy Pelosi, then-Speaker of the House, “turned down” his offer to send in troops and the National Guard when rioters broke into the Capitol. Pelosi did not direct the National Guard — so she could not have turned down that offer.

But Trump wasn’t the only one to make an untrue claim. Biden claimed that the US Border Patrol endorsed him — which their Union says is false.

Clashing on abortion policies

Trump praised the Dobbs v Jackson decision, which ended nationwide access to abortion two years ago this week. Biden, meanwhile, promised to restore Roe v Wade — the 1973 Supreme Court case overturned by Dobbs — if re-elected.

The former president also made false claims about abortion in the US, including that Democrats want to legalize abortion after a baby is born. Trump falsely accused former governor of Virginia Ralph Northam of saying he would support such a policy

“Because [in] some states Democrats run, [they] take it after birth ... the governor, former governor of Virginia, …He’s, he’s willing to, as we say, rip the baby out of the womb,” Trump said.

However, Trump did say he supports the Supreme Court’s recent decision to keep the abortion medication mifepristone legal — despite right-wing efforts to ban it.

Biden lashes out at Trump for ‘morals of alley cat’ over alleged Stormy affair

Biden laid into Trump over his alleged affair with Stormy Daniels and the recent civil ruling that found him liable for sexually abusing writer E Jean Carrol.

“The crimes that you are still charged with — think of all the civil penalties you have,” Biden said. “How many millions of dollars do you owe in civil penalties for molesting a woman in public? For doing a whole range of things? Of having sex with a porn star...while wife was pregnant?”

Biden went on to say Trump has the “morals of an alley cat.” Trump responded by denying the affair with Daniels and claiming his Manhattan hush money trial was rigged.

Biden’s remarks came after Trump attacked his son, Hunter Biden, who was recently found guilty on federal gun charges.

‘Panic Mode’ among Democrats

Biden’s shaky performance tonight — coupled with already building concerns about his age — has inspired panic among the left.

“Any Democrat who is not in panic mode is the stupidest person in America right now,” Patrick Murray, the director of Monmouth University’s polling, posted on X.

“Horrible,” they told The Independent. “Need to have Harris take over. Cleanest option.”

But Biden’s campaign did not seem worried. Afterward, Biden gave an energetic speech to supporters at a debate watch party. When asked later at a Waffle House about whether he was worried, Biden said “No. It’s hard to debate a liar.”