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The Egalitarian

The student news site of Houston Community College

The Egalitarian

The student news site of Houston Community College

The Egalitarian

Stage set for historic presidential debate Thursday night

Nicholas Cox, Ph.D., history department chair at Houston Community College System, explains how presidential debates were meant to inform voters.

High stakes await President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump as both men prepare to take center stage in Atlanta.

CNN will host the first 2024 presidential debate Thursday night at its studios, which will be simulcast across multiple television networks.

After a primary season which saw no debate appearance by either candidate, HCC history department chair Nicholas Cox, Ph.D., said the event could play into Biden’s favor amid sagging poll numbers.

“I think that Biden would like to get in front of the American audience again to remind people who he is, what he does and that he is not, you know, taking a nap,” Cox said. 

“I think that Biden’s team also believes that any time we spend with Donald Trump will remind people who dislike him why they dislike him.”

While there will be no studio audience, as agreed to by both campaigns, a poll released Wednesday by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found 6 in 10 adults are “extremely” or “very” likely to watch the debate from home.

This will be the first time Biden and Trump have met since their last debate in Nashville in October 2020. 

Trump declined to attend Biden’s inauguration the following January.

Aside from wrestling with issues like jobs and the economy, all bets are off when it comes to expectations for Thursday night, said HCC government department chair Steven Tran.

“While I’m pretty sure Biden would follow rules and instructions as per debate protocol, I can’t be certain about the other side,” Tran said. “I’m almost expecting a truly chaotic event that we will remember more for the chaos than for anything else.”

Historically, Biden and Trump debates have been discordant, if not volatile episodes.

Americans watched as the first 2020 debate dissolved into an angry and divisive clash of personalities, with an interrupting Trump receiving a now-famous rebuke from a frustrated Biden: “Will you shut up, man?”

While their second and final debate of the season was more restrained, the polling needle didn’t budge much.

Cox said it’s hard to say how the June debate might influence voters this time.

“An early debate like this may have an impact on polling, but with five months to go in the election, it’ll be hard to know whether or not it has a real impact at all.” Cox said.

While FiveThirtyEight said its poll shows Trump and Biden with a 50-50 chance of winning, the RealClearPolitics average has Trump with a slight lead of 1.5 percent.

Regardless of who wins the first debate, Tran said it’s swing state voters in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin who will decide the outcome.

“Whoever wins the election will make an impact that will be felt for years, decades, generations to come,” Tran said, pointing to Trump as an example.

“Who would have thought that electing one president led to the appointment of three Supreme Court justices who ultimately voted to overturn Roe v. Wade? That overturning took place under the administration of another president, (Biden).”

Consequences like these are why this election matters, said Mike Doyle, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party.

“Current students grew up in a country that has always had strong democratic norms, but these protections are not set and stone and require us protecting our institutions, something Trump has demonstrated he will do his best to knock down to destroy critical rights as Americans,” Doyle told the Egalitarian via email.

The Egalitarian reached out to the Harris County Republican Party, but did not receive a response by press time.

2024 Presidential Debates
First Debate: Thursday, June 27

Where to watch: CNN, 8 p.m. CDT; simulcast on ABC, Fox News, Hulu, NewsNation (check local listings)

Moderators: Jake Tapper and Dana Bash

Second Debate: Tuesday, Sept. 10

Where to watch: ABC, streaming on ABC News Live and Hulu

Time and moderators to be announced

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