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4 takeaways from the first presidential debate

If some people who listened to the radio in 1960 thought Richard Nixon won the presidential debate with John F. Kennedy, then maybe people reading the transcript of Thursday night’s match-up would think President Biden won.


But elections aren’t won in transcripts. The reality is, fairly or not, debates are often about optics — how the candidates present themselves, defend their records and parry attacks.

And that’s why so many Democrats are ringing the fire alarms after the first general-election presidential debate of 2024. The Biden campaign said the president had a cold to explain why he sounded so hoarse and weak. But Biden’s stumbles right from the beginning played into his biggest vulnerability — his age and whether the 81-year-old is up to the challenge of handling four more years in office.

There were issues for Trump, too, as he continued to spread falsehoods and bathe in the kinds of conspiratorial grievances that have turned off many voters.

Not much has changed the dynamics of this race; will anything that happened Thursday night make a difference either?

Here are four takeaways from the first Biden-Trump debate of this campaign:

1. First and foremost, let’s talk about the elephant in the room – Democrats have to be wondering if they’d be better off with someone else as their nominee.

Neither candidate is the official nominee yet. The national political conventions haven’t happened — but it’s next to impossible that Democrats would replace Biden.

Still, given he delivered the kind of performance Democrats feared, party leaders, strategists and many voters, frankly, had to be wondering during this debate what it would be like if any of a handful of other Democrats were standing on that stage.

Biden got

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