5 Key Takeaways and Missed Opportunities from the CNN Presidential Debate

The CNN-hosted debate had two of the presidential aspirants go head to head on issues. Though some were covered, other were not touched.

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The first presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle, hosted by CNN in Atlanta, saw President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump face off in a 90-minute exchange that highlighted stark contrasts between the two candidates. While the debate covered a range of topics, it also left several crucial issues unaddressed.

Here are some topics that were addressed:

1. Age and Fitness for Office

Both candidates, being the oldest contenders in U.S. presidential history, faced questions about their age and fitness for office. Biden, 81, struggled with clarity and coherence at times, while Trump, 77, appeared more energetic but made numerous false claims. This performance has sparked concerns among Democrats about Biden’s ability to campaign effectively.

2. Economic Concerns

The debate opened with a focus on the economy, with Trump criticizing Biden’s handling of inflation and economic growth. Biden defended his record, citing job creation and efforts to lower costs for Americans. However, the nuanced discussion of economic policies was often overshadowed by personal attacks.

3. Immigration and Border Security

Trump repeatedly steered the conversation towards immigration, an issue where Biden is perceived as vulnerable. The former president made exaggerated claims about the current state of border security, while Biden struggled to effectively communicate his administration’s policies.

4. Abortion Rights

The candidates presented contrasting views on abortion rights, with Biden pledging to codify Roe v. Wade if re-elected, and Trump taking credit for appointing Supreme Court justices who overturned the landmark decision.

5. January 6th and Election Integrity

Trump avoided directly addressing his role in the January 6th Capitol attack, instead pivoting to economic talking points. Biden accused Trump of being unable to accept defeat, while Trump eventually stated he would accept the results of a “fair and legal” election.

While both aspirants had time to jab each other on Trump’s porn star scandals and the stability of Biden and his son, these are important issues that were not debated:

1. Climate Change

Despite its growing importance, climate change was notably absent from the debate. Neither candidate was asked to outline their plans for addressing this global crisis.

2. Healthcare Reform

While healthcare was briefly mentioned, there was no substantial discussion about plans to improve the U.S. healthcare system or address rising costs.

3. Education Policy

Issues such as student debt, education reform, and the role of public schools were not addressed during the debate.

4. Foreign Policy Beyond Ukraine

While the Ukraine conflict was discussed, other crucial foreign policy issues, such as relations with China and the ongoing Middle East tensions, were not explored in depth.

5. Cybersecurity and Technology Policy

In an increasingly digital world, the absence of discussion on cybersecurity threats and technology regulation was a significant oversight.

As the 2024 election campaign continues, future debates and public appearances will likely need to address these overlooked issues to provide voters with a comprehensive understanding of each candidate’s vision for the country. This is the first time in US history a presidential debate has been held this early. 

President Biden and former President Trump agreed to two televised debates before the November 5 election. This one is the first hosted by CNN and ABC will hold the second on September 10. These events, scheduled well before early voting begins, will be the first time the two face off since 2020, allowing voters to compare the candidates side-by-side. 

Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., currently polling less than 15% nationally, was excluded from the first Biden-Trump debate. He could join the second if he reaches 15% in polls and gains more ballot access. Kennedy accused the frontrunners of “colluding” to keep him off stage, claiming they fear he would win.

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