All the Details on Trump & Biden’s Weirdly Early 2024 Debate

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The 2024 election is odd in multiple ways. Joe Biden and Donald Trump both clinched their party’s nomination way earlier than usual. They’re the oldest major-party presidential candidates ever. This is the first rematch between two presidents in more than 100 years. Oh, and one of the candidates is now a convicted felon.

The two candidates turned up the weird factor even more in May when Biden publicly dared Trump to debate him (using the phrase “Well, make my day, pal.”) Within hours, the two were set to debate in June and September.

We’ve never seen a debate process quite like this — and yet, we also watched these two guys face off just four years ago. Here’s what you need to know heading into the unprecedented-yet-very-precedented first presidential debate of 2024.

The first presidential debate of 2024 will be on June 27, 2024 at 9 p.m. ET. The debate will be hosted by CNN, and will be filmed at the network’s studios in Atlanta, Georgia.

The debate will air on various CNN properties, and be simulcast on other networks that have yet to be announced. Per the CNN press release:

The CNN Presidential Debate will air live on CNN, CNN International, CNN en Español, CNN Max and stream without a cable login on CNN will make the debate available to simulcast on additional broadcast and cable news networks in the United States.

All previous televised presidential debates took place in late September or October. But the Biden team wanted to remind tuned-out Americans that there’s a presidential election this year, and that it could put Trump back in the White House. Per the New York Times:

The move was meant to jolt Americans to attention sooner than later about their consequential choice in 2024. Mr. Biden’s advisers have long believed that the dawning realization of a Trump-Biden rematch will be a balm for the president’s droopy approval ratings.

The earlier date also gives the two elderly, gaffe-prone candidates more time to recover from any debate missteps.

CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash.

We don’t know yet. CNN has yet to reveal details about the format or what kind of antics might lead to a candidate’s mic getting cut.

Only Biden and Trump are definitely in — which may be part of the reason both campaigns agreed to go around the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has hosted presidential debates since 1988. Biden’s public challenge was somewhat for show; the Times reported that the Democratic and Republican campaigns had hammered out debate terms beforehand, as they wanted to “face off directly, without Robert F. Kennedy Jr. or other independent or third-party candidates.”

Yes, there’s still a chance that he could qualify. CNN’s rules state that participants must qualify for the presidency under the Constitution and have filed a formal statement of candidacy to the Federal Election Commission. Five candidates have done so: Biden, Trump, Kennedy, Cornel West, and Jill Stein.

The part where things get tricky for the Kennedy, West, and Stein is the requirement that their names appear on enough state ballots to potentially reach 270 electoral votes, and that they receive at least 15 percent in four national polls selected by CNN. West and Stein have been averaging less than two percent in the polls, so they’re out. Kennedy’s RealClearPolitics polling average is just over 9 percent in a five-way race or 10 percent in a three-way race. So there’s a slim chance that he could hit the 15 percent polling threshold. But RFK Jr. has still only qualified for the ballot in eight states (though his campaign says he’s on the verge of making onto the ballot in a handful of other states).

Here’s CNN’s full criteria:

To qualify for participation, candidates must fulfill the requirements outlined in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States; file a Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission; a candidate’s name must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidency prior to the eligibility deadline; agree to accept the rules and format of the debate; and receive at least 15% in four separate national polls of registered or likely voters that meet CNN’s standards for reporting.

Polls that meet CNN editorial standards and will be considered qualifying polls include those sponsored by: CNN, ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, Marquette University Law School, Monmouth University, NBC News, the New York Times/Siena College, NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College, Quinnipiac University, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.

The polling window to determine eligibility for the debate opened March 13, 2024, and closes seven days before the date of the debate.

Probably not, but he’s giving it a try. On May 28 he filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing Biden and Trump of illegally colluding with CNN to keep him off the debate stage. In the complaint RFK Jr. claims CNN’s debate violates the Federal Election Campaign Act. As New York’s Ed Kilgore explained, Kennedy’s effort probably won’t work:

…. there’s no legal principle whereby CNN can’t set whatever rules it wants. Team Kennedy is likely working the refs and counting on public pressure to convince CNN to relax its ballot-access criteria on grounds that it creates a double standard benefiting major-party candidates who won’t officially qualify for a single ballot before July (when Republicans formally nominate Trump) and August (when Biden will become the Democratic nominee).

Even if Kennedy gets his way with CNN, there’s a decent chance the Biden campaign could withdraw its own pledge to participate since it didn’t bargain for a three-cornered event (the Trump campaign has not objected to Kennedy’s participation, which may be an indication as to whose candidacy he is more likely to hurt or help in the end).

The second debate is scheduled for September 10 and will be hosted by ABC News.

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