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Did CNN’s Biden-Trump presidential debate format work?

Written by on June 28, 2024

(WASHINGTON) — The nation watched as President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump squared up Thursday evening in the first presidential debate of the 2024 general election.

While this debate wasn’t the first time the two candidates contended over issues ranging from immigration and the economy to abortion access — this presidential debate saw the two candidates forced to follow the rules.

Ahead of the debate, held in a studio at CNN’s Atlanta headquarters, both campaigns agreed to a set of guidelines established by CNN, which included muted microphones, no live studio audience and restricting the candidates from consulting with their teams during commercial breaks.

Biden and Trump were given two minutes to answer each question and one minute for rebuttal.

While the microphone muting kept the cross-fire between the candidates orderly, the debate’s strict time guidelines seemingly made for less pushback from the event’s moderators, CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash.

The debate saw Biden and Trump continuously calling each other a “liar,” but with little-to-no live fact-checking by the moderators.

“This debate is a master-class in what’s wrong with our media-saturated, horse-race obsessed politics,” Robert. E Kelly, a professor of political science, wrote on X Thursday.

“Trump is just lying and making stuff up but he says it ‘vigorously’ and doesn’t get fact-checked. Therefore he’s winning,” Kelly wrote, adding, “We’ll spend the next month debating Biden’s age rather than Trump’s staggering incompetence.”

Another viewer suggested the debate format should feature a “buzzer” that would go off every time the candidates said a false statement.

“We need a buzzer to go off every time a false statement is made by a candidate,” Amee Vanderpool, a political writer, wrote on X.

“Until then any debate in this format, with moderators who refuse to fact check statements in real time, is a waste of time,” Vanderpool said.

Other users took to social media to applaud the format, saying the microphones being cut brought order to the debate stage that wasn’t seen during the 2020 election cycle.

“I want to give CNN credit. The debate format is fantastic,” Leo Terrell, a civil rights attorney, wrote on X.

“I’ve never seen fewer complaints about the debate format or moderators before,” Noam Blum said on X, adding, “Taking away the audience and preventing people from talking over each other just works.”

The first 2020 debate between Biden and Trump spiraled into near-constant interruptions and candidates speaking at the same time. At one point, Biden turned to Trump and told him, “Will you shut up, man?”

Ahead of Thursday’s debate, experts told ABC News the rules could make for a more substantive, issue-focused debate.

“Despite the fact that these rules are pretty strict, we’re going to see some fireworks,” Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at the University of Houston, told ABC News last week.

The CNN debate marked the first of two debates in the general election season. The second will be hosted by ABC News on Sept. 10.

With less than a five-month countdown to Election Day, and recent projections from 538 placing the candidates at a near-tie among polled voters, the presidential debates are poised to be make-or-break events for Biden or Trump.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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