Biden stumbles, supporters worried after first presidential debate

Trump energetic if not always factual, Biden speech coloured by wandering, missteps
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President Joe Biden, right, and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, left, during a presidential debate hosted by CNN, Thursday, June 27, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

A shaky start from a stumbling Joe Biden left some Democrat supporters concerned the president was not able to push back on rival Donald Trump’s oftentimes exaggerated or inaccurate claims during the first presidential debate ahead of the November election.

There were gasps from Democratic supporters during a Thursday evening watch party in South Philadelphia when Biden lost his train of thought while trying to make a point about tax rates and the number of billionaires in America near the beginning of the debate.

Danina Moore was a bit uneasy following 81-year-old Biden’s uneven performance, including a raspy voice and rambling responses, throughout the debate.

“Hopefully Biden can pull it off,” Moore said with a sigh.

The president has faced consistent criticism about his age and the concerns were likely not quelled by his conduct on the stage in Atlanta. When asked about age during the debate, Biden pointed out that Trump is 78.

“This guy’s three years younger and a lot less competent,” Biden said.

Trump, in response to a similar question about his age, pointed to the two cognitive tests he took, saying he “aced them,” and called for Biden to take one.

Trump appeared energetic but not always factual with his responses while Biden’s jarring speech and missteps seemed more pronounced.

Vice-President Kamala Harris, speaking on CNN afterward, said “there was a slow start, but there was a strong finish.”

Democrats and Republicans were both hoping the early debate would light a spark for supporters. Experts have said many Americans are not engaging with the campaigns and a lot of would-be voters aren’t supportive of either candidate.

At the Philadelphia watch party, Republican George Williams said he thought Trump walked away the more competent and coherent debater.

“I think Trump did well tonight.”

While Philadelphia is generally a Democratic stronghold, Pennsylvania, where Biden was born, has turned into a battleground state that could be crucial to win the presidency.

Trump took it in 2016 before it swung back to Biden in 2020 — both by narrow margins.

The matchup Thursday saw the current president and his political rival exchange personal barbs as well as criticism over their legacies in the Oval Office.

Biden said when Trump left office, “things were in chaos.” He said the COVID-19 pandemic was poorly handled and the economy was in freefall. Biden spoke about his record on jobs and the cost of medication.

Trump said his presidency brought “the greatest economy in the history of our country.” Trump also criticized Biden’s withdrawal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Williams said nothing from the debate would sway his opinion. He’s basing his decision on Trump’s first term as president. “I’m already sold.”

Moore said any parent should be afraid of a second Trump term.

“If you got kids … you better vote for Biden.”

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