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    Biden-Trump TV brawls are set: Here’s what senators will be watching for

    By Ramsey Touchberry,

    30 days ago

    Senators have mixed feelings about forthcoming clashes between President Joe Biden and the presumptive GOP nominee, former President Donald Trump , when the two take the stage for televised debates this summer.

    The 2020 election debates between the pair devolved into mudslinging contests of who could more effectively talk over the other, likely promising more on-air entertainment in their 2024 rematch.

    “I always look forward to the Fourth of July because of the fireworks,” Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) said. “I guess I'd say the same thing about the debate.”

    Republicans hope events will offer voters a direct contrast in energy and cognitive status between Biden and Trump. But some also warn Trump this time around to resist diverging from a cordial debate style by toning down off-the-cuff and bombastic rhetoric that could distract from broader issues.

    “I think people are worried about President Biden's ability to serve four more years,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said. “And can Trump handle it? Will he go off like a Roman candle, and can Biden coherently respond to questions?”

    The Trump confidant urged the former president to “talk about what you did for the country versus what Biden's doing and you'll win hands down.”

    Graham also quipped that “as long as you can't use the teleprompter, I'm good with it.”

    “I would let President Biden speak,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said. “I wouldn't interrupt him. But challenge him when it's your turn.”

    Trump and Biden are set to square off twice before the November election, the first on June 27 with CNN and the second on Sept. 10 with ABC. The dates were established after Biden challenged Trump on social media, which the Republican accepted. The agreement presented a major snub by both candidates of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has organized such events since 1988.

    Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) foreshadowed the debates would be “must-watch television” and advised Trump to focus on hot-button issues leading voters' concerns like crime, inflation, illegal immigration, and foreign conflicts abroad.

    “The race should focus on the policy records of each president, and on that criterion, there's a stark difference between the two,” Cruz said.

    Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) predicted little benefit beyond providing “interesting entertainment.”

    “I don't think it changes any minds,” he said. “Depending on what time that they're doing it in the evening, I think the former president has the odds on [Biden] just because I think the current president doesn't do well in the evening.”

    Some Democrats felt similarly that the debates are unlikely to sway a sizable number of voters given this year’s election is a 2020 rematch.

    “I’ll wait until it's over to tell you” if it changed any minds, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said.

    The second-ranking Senate Democrat doesn’t “expect anything different” from 2020’s chaotic debates because Trump is “one of the most bizarre figures in the history of American politics” but is still supportive of them going head to head onstage.

    Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) held a pessimistic view about any debates among political candidates.

    “Debates typically really aren’t meaningful or affect anything,” Fetterman said. “After everything we’ve all been through collectively since 2016, is anyone going to [change from], ‘I’m with Trump, I’m with Biden?’ It’s very clear. It’s not going to really change much. I don’t think it’s going to mean anything.”


    Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) offered a more optimistic outlook on the debates’ potential impacts.

    “It's been a lot of time since four years ago,” he said. “People will have questions and things on their mind and deserve to hear from the nominee for both parties.”

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