The Latest | Trump and Biden squared off for the first time in the 2024 election season

ATLANTA (AP) — The first general election debate of the 2024 season has come to a close, with U.S. President Joe Biden and his Republican rival, Donald Trump, clashing on immigration and climate change and launching deeply personal attacks on each other Thursday evening in Atlanta.

The debate, which was expected to be viewed in some capacity by tens of millions of people, covered a range of issues, from access to abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. CNN moderators also questioned both 81-year-old Biden and 78-year-old Trump on their ability to serve as president for four years given their ages.

Thursday's debate in Atlanta offered an opportunity for both candidates to sway undecided votes and reassure Americans of their suitability for the Oval Office.

The night marked at least a couple of firsts — never before had two White House contenders faced off at such advanced ages, and never before had CNN hosted a general election presidential debate.


— Biden stirs Democratic anxiety over his candidacy post-debate

Takeaways from the first presidential debate of the 2024 election

— Trump and Biden spar on economy and abortion

— A look at some of the false claims made during Biden and Trump’s first debate

— CNN debate moderators did little moderating

Here’s the latest:

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio says while he thinks Trump won the debate, ‘there’s a long way to go'

While many Republicans were gloating after the debate, one of Trump’s potential running mates was measured in his assessment.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio scored the former president as the big winner but said “there’s a long way to go,” noting “we haven’t even had conventions yet.”

He said the election won’t turn on one night but on what most Americans feels about inflation and their economic security, the border, and U.S. security amid multiple wars abroad.

“That’s going to influence a lot of voters in the real world, everyday people,” Rubio said, “not political junkies that are already kind of locked in one direction or another.”

Ultimately, the senator added, “I think Trump has an advantage with that.”

Vice president says Biden had a slow start but finished strong in the debate

Vice President Kamala Harris in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow acknowledged President Joe Biden had a slow start, but said she "thought it was a strong finish.”

“What we had in Joe Biden is someone who wanted to have a debate based on facts, based on truths, and in Donald Trump we have what we’ve come to expect, which is someone who is going to push lies and distract from the reality of the damage he has created and continues to create in our country,” Harris said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom says Democrats shouldn't panic after debate

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, in an interview on MSNBC after the debate, said in response to a question about panic in his party: “There shouldn’t be.”

“I think it’s unhelpful. And I think it’s unnecessary. We’ve got to go in, we’ve got to keep our heads high. And as I say, we’ve got to have the back of this president. You don’t turn back because of one performance,” Newsom said. “What kind of party does that?”

He continued defending President Joe Biden, saying, “This president has delivered. We need to deliver for him.”

Biden vs. Trump II

Wondering how the second debate might differ from tonight’s? You’re going to have to wait awhile.

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump’s second debate is scheduled for Sept. 10 on ABC. The network hasn’t yet released details on the format.

Thursday’s faceoff was the earliest general election presidential debate ever. The second one is also early, and will be held more than six weeks before Election Day.

CNN moderators didn’t do much moderating

CNN’s moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash asked questions and not much more during Thursday's presidential debate, as the two candidates essentially carried the show on their own.

Almost never did the moderators jump in and cut off or challenge a statement from Donald Trump or Joe Biden, and the candidates only fleetingly interacted directly with Bash and Tapper other than listening to — and sometimes answering — their questions.

It was a stark contrast from debates in previous presidential-election years, when other candidates — particularly Trump — jostled at times with moderators.

So for 90 minutes, Trump and Biden were largely left to do their thing — however the public chose to judge them.

How would the candidates tackle pricey child care?

How will the two candidates tackle the high cost of child care? It’s an issue that is important for millions of working parents of young children.

The presidential debate on Thursday didn’t exactly clarify things, even though Joe Biden has put his support for child care at the forefront of his campaign.

When Donald Trump was asked how he would lower the cost of child care, he ignored the question, and went back to defending his decision to fire his then-chief of staff John Kelly, who had confirmed that Trump made disparaging remarks about military veterans.

He was given another chance to answer the question, and he answered by talking about “polling, we have other things, they rate (Biden) the worst.”

Biden, in jumbled remarks, talked about child care in ways that were at times difficult to follow, even as the White House tries to make the case that Biden’s record investments in child care brought women back to the workforce.

When he was asked what he had to say to Black voters who were “disappointed he hadn’t made more progress” on closing racial disparities, he said, “We got to make sure we provide for child care costs ... because when you provide those child care protections, you create economic growth because more people can be in the job market.”

After Trump’s non-answer on child care, Biden shot back that his opponent has “done virtually nothing” on child care.

“We should be significantly increase the child care tax credit. We should significantly increase the availability of women and men, er, single parents to be able to go back to work,” he said.

Trump's niece urges Biden's reelection

Donald Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, told reporters after the debate that her uncle has “one policy position – to keep himself out of prison.”

She called him a traitor to his country and noted that “the people who know him best can’t support him” before urging Biden’s reelection.

Trump adviser to Democrats: ‘You have your nominee’

Donald Trump adviser Jason Miller said the former president delivered Thursday on the debate stage and held mostly to discussing issues.

On Joe Biden’s performance and any talk of Democrats turning to another nominee, Miller said a move would be “structurally impossible.”

“Sorry, Democrats. You have your nominee,” Miller said.

Trump and Biden leave the studio

After the debate, President Joe Biden returned to the hotel where he spent much of the day to briefly address supporters at a debate watch party.

“I can’t think of one thing he said that was true,” Biden said about Donald Trump. “Look we’re going to beat this guy. We need to beat this guy and I need you in order to beat him.”

“God love you all,” he said before stepping off the stage to greet some of those supporters.

Meanwhile, Trump was on his way back to his private plane as his aides and supporters gloated about his performance Thursday night.

He’s not planning to stop by the spin room, leaving that job to surrogates, which include several of his vice presidential short-listers.

Some voters frustrated with how the debate went

McALLEN, TEXAS — Marco Perez, 53, voted for Joe Biden in the last election and said he was frustrated with the way Thursday's debate was going.

“I want to hear more facts, more action as opposed to more finger-pointing, more accusations or false accusations,” Perez said while watching with friends at a McAllen, Texas, bar.

London’s Bar & Grill is normally loud on a day close to the weekend, but many patrons were quiet as they listened to the candidates.

Perez's friend Virginia Lopez, 51, said she’s unsure which way she’s voting.

“I really feel that one of them — the Republican — I’m disappointed with what he’s done, with his behavior. And the other one, I just feel like he’s too old,” she said.

Lopez said she felt Biden took longer to respond, while Donald Trump had quick replies but the answers were unsatisfying. “Trump is just deflecting in all the answers and he’s just lying. It doesn’t feel like a real debate in the past.”

Fore more years? Biden, Trump take swings at each other’s golf skills

They debated the economy, immigration and foreign policy, but it was an argument over golf handicaps that brought out some of the feistiest comments in Thursday’s debate as Joe Biden and Donald Trump sparred over how far they can hit the ball and their stamina on the course, with Trump bragging about trophies he’s won and Biden noting that he’s a single-digit handicap.

Answering a question about his fitness, Trump, who would be 82 at the end of a second term, bragged that he was in “very good shape” and had recently won two championships at one of his golf courses. “To do that, you have to be quite smart and you have to be able to hit the ball a long way.”

Biden, he said, “can’t hit a ball 50 yards.”

Biden then touted his his own golf abilities. “I got my handicap, when I was vice president, down to six,” Biden said. He again challenged Trump to a golf match, but only if his foe carried his bag of clubs himself.

“Think you can do it?” asked Biden, whose handicap is listed on the United State Golf Association’s website as 6.7, with the last update in July 2018. Trump’s handicap last updated in June 2021 is listed as 2.5. Biden would be 86 at the end of his second term.

Trump called Biden’s handicap claim “the biggest lie of all,” adding: “I’ve seen your swing. I know your swing.”

Trump then sought to shut down the golf discussion.

“Let’s not act like children,” Trump said.

“You are a child,” Biden retorted.

In golf, a handicap is a measure of a player’s skill. The lower the handicap, better the player is.

Democrats weighing in

Georgia state Rep. Billy Mitchell, a leading Democrat in the suburban Atlanta Democratic heartland of DeKalb County, said he thought Joe Biden could overcome his debate performance.

“The bar was set so low by his opponent that he certainly exceeded that,” Mitchell said at the Biden campaign watch party in downtown Atlanta. “The reality is we love Joe Biden because of where his heart is, despite if he looked like he had a cold here and there.”

Former Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro said in a post on the social platform X that, “Biden had a very low bar going into the debate and failed to clear even that bar. He seemed unprepared, lost, and not strong enough to parry effectively with Trump, who lies constantly.”

Trump supporters react to his debate performance

As the debate came to a close, Donald Trump supporter retired police officer Nick Glaub, of Ross, Ohio, watched with his feet kicked up onto a nearby performance stage, a can of Corona beer sitting on the table.

Glaub was pleased with Trump’s debate performance and said he noticed the lack of attack lines from Trump.

“I just think he held his composure,” he said.

Chuck Thompson, a Trump supporter from Mason, Ohio, who came to the watch party decked in an American flag button-down shirt, was also pleased with Trump’s debate performance, noting the difference in tone from Trump’s last debate against President Biden in 2020.

“He didn’t lash out,” Thompson said. “He’s learned how to control his temper.

The candidates' closing statements

President Joe Biden began his closing statement with a voice that was even scratchier than earlier and was at times hard to understand.

He said of his administration, “We’ve made significant progress from the debacle that was left by President Trump is in his last term” but also flubbed the price cuts on insulin he helped champion, saying $35 when he meant $15.

In his closing statement, former President Donald Trump tried again to lump Biden in with other career politicians, calling Biden “a complainer.”

He also said that the public and foreign leaders don’t respect Biden, saying, “The whole country is exploding because of you.”

Trump asked if he will accept the results of the 2024 election

Though asked three times, former President Donald Trump never directly affirmed that he would accept the election results, no matter who wins.

Several times Trump noted that he would accept the results “if it’s a fair and legal and good election” but wouldn’t give a yes or no answer to moderator Dana Bash’s inquiries.

The follow-ups came after Trump ultimately denounced political violence as “totally unacceptable.”

After the moderator asked Trump three times whether he would accept the results of the November election, Joe Biden responded that he doubted Trump would “because you’re such a whiner.”

Biden noted there was no evidence of any widespread fraud in the 2020 election and that multiple courts had dismissed challenges brought by Trump’s campaign.

Biden uses term ‘illegal aliens’ while discussing immigration

Joe Biden uses the term “illegal aliens” while responding to Donald Trump’s attacks on immigration.

He said that while Trump accuses migrants of taking away jobs, he said “there’s a reason why we have the fastest growing economy in the world.”

It’s not the first time Biden has used terms that are rejected by immigrant rights’ groups and are not favored by Democrats. In March, during his State of the Union speech, he referred to a suspect in the killing of a Georgia nursing student as an “illegal” and later said he regretted using that term.

“I shouldn’t have used illegal, it’s undocumented,” he said in an interview with MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart.

Moderators question both Biden and Trump on their ability to be president at their age

More than 80 minutes into the debate, President Joe Biden, 81, and former President Donald Trump, 78, were asked about their age and ability to serve well into his 80s.

Biden, answering with the hoarse voice he’s had all night, launched on a litany of policy achievements and noted that Trump is only “three years younger.”

Biden also used the answer to slap at Trump for bad-mouthing the U.S. “The idea that we are some kind of failing country? I’ve never heard a president talk like that before,” Biden said.

In his retort, Trump bragged on his golf game and said he’s in as good a shape as he was 25 years ago and perhaps “even a little bit lighter.”