Trump and Biden sharpen lines ahead of debate showdown

Composite image of Donald Trump and Joe Biden

Joe Biden and Donald Trump both spent the weekend sharpening their lines in preparation for their first 2024 debate - in very different ways.

Mr Biden spent his time hunkered down with aides at the Camp David presidential retreat, engaging in mock debates.

Donald Trump spent Saturday on the campaign trail, where he publicly workshopped attack lines and tactics.

Thursday’s CNN-hosted debate will mark the third time - though the first in this election cycle - that the Democrat and Republican candidates face-off on stage.

They ran against each other in 2020 and debated twice that year.

The Democratic president is preparing with Ron Klain, his former chief of staff, who also helped him get ready for his State of the Union speech in March.

BBC’s US partner CBS News reported that Bob Bauer, who served as White House counsel under former President Barack Obama, is playing the role of Donald Trump in the mock debates with Joe Biden.

On Sunday, the Biden campaign also said it plans to host hundreds of watch parties and events in battleground US states across to mark the upcoming debate.

Along with 1,600 events, the campaign said it will run a new batch of TV and digital advertisements in a bid to connect with voters.

The events will target groups seen crucial to Mr Biden’s re-election, including members of the LGBT community and college students.

As for the debate itself, Mr Biden’s campaign co-chair hinted on Sunday that one of the strategies will be to attack the Republican rival on his legal troubles and character.

“It really doesn’t matter how Donald Trump shows up if he comes in unhinged, like he is most of the time, or he sits there and is quiet,” Mitch Landrieu told NBC on Sunday.

Mr Landrieu said people will know that he’s a "convicted felon" - referring to Trump's recent conviction in the New York hush-money trial - who has been found to have "defamed somebody, sexually abused somebody" - referring to his defeat in a civil defamation lawsuit brought against him by writer E Jean Carroll.

Meanwhile, the Republican has forgone traditional debate preparations and has instead been holding a series of meetings in recent weeks with US senators and advisors.

Trump has been reviewing with them at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida the policy points he would like to make during Thursday's showdown.

“He is thinking about how to translate these really, really important topics into a message that works,” said Republican Senator JD Vance in an interview with Fox News earlier this week.

Mr Vance is one of the senators that have met with Trump in recent days, along with Marco Rubio and Eric Schmitt.

According to The Hill newspaper, Trump is also discussing how to approach topics like the 6 January 2021 Capitol riot, which Mr Biden has called attack on American democracy.

On Saturday, the former president held a rally in Philadelphia, where he took aim at Mr Biden, mocking him for his Camp David debate preparations.

At one point, he asked the crowd if he should be “tough and nasty” towards his rival during the debate, or “be nice and calm”.

Also on Saturday, Trump said he has decided who his vice-presidential running mate will be, though he did not reveal a name.

In an interview with NBC following the Philadelphia rally, Trump said the running mate will “most likely” be at the debate, which will be in Atlanta.

He said that no one knows who his pick is, adding: “I think we have a lot of people coming.”

The presumptive Republican nominee has said he will unveil his vice-presidential pick at the party's convention next month.

Both Mr Vance and Mr Rubio are said to be strong contenders, as well as North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

Recent national polls indicate the presidential race is neck-and-neck so far.

A YouGov poll conducted between 17 and 21 June for CBS News of nearly 2,000 likely voters suggests Trump is slightly ahead with one percentage point.