Biden heads to Camp David to prepare for first presidential debate with Trump

Written by on June 20, 2024

President Joe Biden prepares to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, June 25, 2021, en route to Camp David in Thurmont, Maryland. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

(WASHINGTON) — With a week to go until the first presidential debate, President Joe Biden heads to Camp David on Thursday to prepare for his critical matchup with former President Donald Trump.

The famous rustic retreat in the Maryland mountains has hosted many debate boot camps during election years, and Biden hopes to make the most of its secluded setting in the days before heading to the June 27 debate hosted by CNN in Atlanta.

Moderated by CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, the debate will run for approximately 90 minutes with two commercial breaks. It is the first of two scheduled between the candidates — the second of which will be hosted by ABC News on Sept. 10.

In what will be the first real showdown between the two this election cycle, the face-off could potentially shift the narrative for both candidates and each is looking to attract undecided voters in what is expected to be a very tight race.

Unlike in 2020, Biden’s 2024 duties as president will take away some of the time he has for debate prep, meaning much of it will be confined to the days immediately beforehand, officials said.

Biden has just completed a whirlwind couple of weeks that included two foreign trips and hosting two major fundraisers — all while dealing with the emotional fallout from his son, Hunter Biden’s, recent conviction on felony gun charges.

According to a campaign official, Ron Klain, Biden’s former chief of staff, is leading the debate preparations. Other senior campaign aides and longtime advisers, including Cedric Richmond, a former White House aide and current campaign co-chair, will also be on hand.

This won’t be Klain’s first time in a leading role. In addition to assisting Biden in his 2020 debate prep, he led Hillary Clinton’s preparation in 2016, Barack Obama’s in 2008 and 2012 and John Kerry’s in 2004.

In 2020, Biden said his debate prep strategy involved “going over what [Trump] has said and multiple lies he’s told,” in an interview with NBC News. This year, Biden’s debate prep could look similar with his facing the same opponent.

Biden will be aiming to hold Trump accountable for not only his administration’s track record, but also comments Trump has made on the campaign trail on topics ranging from reproductive rights to the economy, to perceived threats of political violence, to what Biden campaign officials say are his efforts to undermine the judicial system.

He is also expected to continue the “punchier” — more pointed — remarks he has used to attack the former president as of late, campaign officials said.

Biden has taken to half-jokingly slamming Trump for suggesting that disinfectants could be used to treat coronavirus.

“Remember when he was trying to deal with COVID, he said just inject a little bleach in your veins,” Biden said after at North America’s Building Trades Unions National Legislative Conference in April. “He missed it. It all went to his hair.”

At a recent fundraiser in Los Angeles with former President Obama, after moderator Jimmy Kimmel asked the president if his recent trip to Italy — which included a visit with the pope — was to “restore the soul of America” because it seemed like the country needed an “exorcism,” Biden jokingly replied “Yeah.”

Trump and his campaign have been pushing the narrative that Biden is in the midst of a “cognitive decline.” They’ve seized on a misleading video from his trip to France to mark the the 80th anniversary of D-Day where they falsely claimed the president “froze.”

If elected, Biden would be 86 when he completed his second term, the oldest president ever to serve.

His poll numbers show him neck-and-neck in key battleground states with Trump, according to 538’s polling average — and he must perform well to quell voter doubts.

Separately, in the lead-up to the debate, the Biden campaign has focused on slamming Trump over his 34 felony convictions in his New York hush-money trial. They’ve labeled this November as an election between a “convicted criminal” and a “president who’s fighting for your family” in a new ad that’s a part of a $50 million June paid media campaign.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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