US election: Showdown in Atlanta: Biden and Trump face off in TV duel

Joe Biden against Donald Trump, 90 minutes live on stage. The first TV duel between the US presidential candidates in the current election campaign is a big show – and a challenge for both.

For the first time in four years, there will be a direct showdown between bitter political opponents Joe Biden and Donald Trump. On Friday night in Germany, the US President and his predecessor will face off in a TV duel in the ongoing election campaign. It is the first direct meeting between the two since October 2020, when they stood together on a television stage during the election campaign. Since then, they have never been in the same room together – as far as is known. Back then, Trump was still the incumbent and Biden the challenger. This time the roles have been reversed. And: Trump is now a convicted criminal.

However, his guilty verdict in a New York trial over illegally recorded hush money payments to a porn star has not harmed the Republican in the election campaign so far. Despite all the scandals, Trump is roughly on a par in polls with the Democratic incumbent, who is struggling with image problems related to his advanced age. Biden is 81 years old, but Trump is hardly any younger at 78.

The preparation

The president went into hiding for days to prepare for the debate and trained for a week at the remote Camp David country estate for the debate without attending a single public event. Trump, on the other hand, has said in recent days that he does not need much training – he has basically prepared for the debate his “whole life” and debating is “above all a question of attitude” anyway.

The rules

The debate is being hosted by the television channel CNN. The moderators are CNN journalists Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. It will be broadcast from a studio in Atlanta, Georgia. The debate will last 90 minutes. During this time, the microphone of the presidential candidate who is not speaking will remain muted. Biden and Trump must also speak freely: They are not allowed to take cheat sheets to the lectern and are only given pens and notepads. They are also forbidden from contacting their campaign teams during the two commercial breaks. The debate will take place without a studio audience. Biden’s campaign team is said to have insisted on this.

The timing

It is unusual that the first TV debate between the two presidential candidates is taking place in June. Trump and Biden are not expected to be chosen as their parties’ official candidates until July and August at party nominating conventions. However, they secured the necessary delegate votes for this early in the race in the primaries – which is why they are considered to be candidates for the presidential election in early November.

Previous scandals

In the 2020 election year – still in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic – the first of two Biden-Trump duels attracted attention, mainly because of the amount of shouting between the two. But the debate is also memorable for another incident. A few days after the exchange, the White House announced that Trump had contracted Covid-19. As a result, the Republican was hospitalized for several days. About a year later, Trump’s then chief of staff, Mark Meadows, wrote in a book that Trump had already tested positive for the coronavirus before the debate, but received a negative test result in another test. Trump rejected the account.

The absent

In addition to Biden and Trump, there are other – hopeless – candidates in the current race for the White House who would also have liked to be on the television stage in Atlanta. However, the independent Robert F. Kennedy did not qualify. The nephew of former President John F. Kennedy did not reach the threshold set by CNN in terms of poll results, among other things. The independent candidate Cornel West and Green Party candidate Jill Stein also did not meet the requirements.

The companions

It is unclear whether Trump will be accompanied by his wife Melania at the debate. The former First Lady has hardly appeared in public since leaving the White House, has remained largely silent and has played hardly any role in her husband’s election campaign. In any case, according to the White House, Biden will have his wife Jill with him in Atlanta.

Watching from Germany

The television channels Phoenix and ZDF will broadcast the debate live on Friday night from 2:45 a.m. CEST. The channel CNN itself will stream the debate live on its website However, this can only be accessed from Germany with a VPN connection.

The next round

Another TV debate between Biden and Trump is planned for September and will be hosted by ABC. It is still unclear whether and when there will be a TV debate between the candidates for the office of Vice President as usual. Biden will again run with Kamala Harris at his side; Trump has not yet named a vice president.