Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

The big weaknesses Biden and Trump will confront on the debate stage: From the Politics Desk

By 37ci3 Jun25,2024

Welcome to the online version of From the policy deskevening bulletin that brings you the latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill from the NBC News Politics team.

In today’s edition, national political reporter Steve Kornacki ranks the biggest weaknesses that Joe Biden and Donald Trump will try to address on the debate stage. Plus, reporter Dasha Burns and producer Abigail Brooks travel to Erie, Pennsylvania to check out how Nikki Haley supporters are viewing the general election.

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Big weaknesses that Biden and Trump will face on the debate stage

By Steve Kornacki

Joe Biden and Donald Trump will take the stage for Thursday night’s debate with some glaring political commitments and the potential to diminish or strengthen them. Figures from two CBS News/YouGov polls released this month address the underlying issue for each.

Biden, 81, faces concerns about his age and mental acuity. He may be only three years older than Trump, but voters are more than 10 times more likely to consider Biden’s age:


This gap stems from significantly different perceptions of each candidate’s mental acuity:


Voters likely have limited expectations for Biden’s speech on Thursday. Thus, a clear, flexible, and powerful presentation lasting 90 minutes can improve Americans’ perception of him—just as a confusing and confusing presentation can reinforce existing concerns and create new ones.

Trump, meanwhile, carries the weight of nearly a decade of controversy and inflammatory antics. And it shows when voters are asked to rate the suitability of each candidate. Into A CBS News/YouGov poll in early June, 67% of voters said they personally disapprove of how Trump is handling himself, while 51% said the same for Biden. Among independents, these numbers rose to 74% for Trump and 55% for Biden.

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This leaves Biden essentially tied with Trump in the polls, despite Americans’ deep suspicion of him. Quite simply, a large part of the current president’s support stems from antipathy toward the former president.

When voters were asked why they supported Biden A mid-June CBS News/YouGov poll, 33% said it was because they liked the president, and 48% said it was to oppose Trump. Among independents who support Biden, 21% say it’s because they like the president, compared to 67% who say they oppose Trump.

The worst-case scenario for Trump is that it imposes a ceiling on his support, with many voters too anxious to support him, regardless of their views on Biden.

Trump probably doesn’t have any performance on Thursday that will make a significant difference to his image. But in an election likely to be decided at the fringes, warming up even a small portion of reluctant Biden supporters may be all he needs. Still, if Trump can just confirm the reservations about him, that may be all Biden needs.

Nikki Haley’s supporters are still fighting in key states

Abigail Brooks and Dasha Burns

ERIE, Pa. – Nearly four months after Nikki Haley dropped out of the presidential race, many of her supporters are still politically homeless.

That’s how Richard Speicher and Mary Gensheimer feel — especially after the “Republican Voters Against Trump” sign disappeared from their front yard. They both voted against Haley in Pennsylvania’s GOP primary in April, even though he had already ended his campaign.

“Trump is not a representative candidate of the Republican Party. She may be who they represent now, but as lifelong Republicans, we both come from very different traditions,” Speicher said. “The only choice available was Nikki Haley.”

The pair represent a critical bloc of voters — in this key battleground state and across the country — who will once again go into a general election that could be determined on the fringes. While many of these Haley voters will eventually come home and support the GOP ticket, others will support President Joe Biden or cast another protest vote in November.

Six weeks after Haley ended her candidacy, she won almost 20% of the vote in Erie County in the April primary. That’s a warning sign for former President Donald Trump, given Erie’s storied status: The county has voted for the state winner and the president overall in the last four elections. In a state where Trump won by 44,000 votes in 2016 and Biden by 80,000 in 2020, Haley received 16.4% of the vote, or almost 159,000 votes.

Since then, Haley said He will vote for Trump in November. But not all of his supporters are ready to go that far.

The Biden campaign, in particular, began to expand its reach with Haley voters, airing ads, hiring staff and relying on volunteer efforts.

For his part, Speicher said he plans to buy a Biden sign to replace the one that disappeared.

“The Republican Party as I knew it is dead,” Speicher said. “I don’t know where to go next.”

Read more about what Haley voters think →

🗞️ The best stories of the day

  • 👀 Veepstakes: Trump could announce his vice presidential pick this week, possibly before Thursday’s debate, according to four people familiar with the situation. More →
  • Get in line: An NBC News analysis of congressional voting records shows that of the GOP senators on Trump’s VP short list, Sen. JD Vance of Ohio has most consistently separated himself from the MAGA movement. More →
  • 🤔 Game of expectations: In six weeks, Trump has gone from calling Biden the “worst debater I’ve ever met” to a “decent debater” who should not be underestimated. More →
  • The $64,000 question: Biden and Trump both ask voters: Are you better off than you were four years ago? But the answer will vary greatly depending on their geography, occupation, age, race and lifestyle. More →
  • ⚖️ Relax: The judge presiding over Trump’s hush money court lifted some restrictions on his gag order two days before the debate. More →
  • 🔵 Being John Fetterman: The New Yorker profiles Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. John Fetterman as he makes his way through the Senate, disappointing progressives who feel the chamber has turned his back on him as he emerges as one of Israel’s most vocal supporters. More →
  • 🗳️ If it’s Tuesday: It’s another primary night in New York where Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a progressive Caucus member and vocal critic of Israel, is at risk of losing to a moderate challenger. Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert is running in a new district in Colorado. Read more about the races to watch →
  • 🌵 Local competition, national stakes: Stephen Richer, an outspoken Republican advocate for the election process, is running for re-election as Maricopa County recorder, a hotbed of election denial since 2020. Monday. More →

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