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Biden, Trump Head Into ‘Truly Unprecedented’ Debate
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Biden, Trump Head Into ‘Truly Unprecedented’ Debate

Plus: A slate of notable Tuesday primary races.

Happy Wednesday! Tennessee defeated Texas A&M on Monday to take home its first College World Series trophy. But the Volunteers are not the only baseball team to show off a recent championship.

Up to Speed

  • Independent Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia will begin donating to centrist members of Congress—both Democrats and Republicans—through his leadership PAC, Country Roads PAC, Punchbowl News reported Tuesday. Manchin, who has previously given to moderate Republicans on occasion, will begin his broader efforts with donations of $5,000 to Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, and independent Sen. Angus King. Manchin left the Democratic Party in May, feeding speculation that he would mount a third-party run in his state’s governor’s race, but his appearance at a fundraiser for the Democratic nominee earlier this month ended such predictions.
  • President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign is sending mixed signals as to whether it has prospects to win Florida. Campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon said her candidate is unlikely to win the traditional battleground state in an interview with Puck News released Sunday, but Dan Kanninen, the campaign’s battleground states director, told Politico Tuesday that Florida is “in play for President Biden and Democrats up and down the ballot.” O’Malley Dillon’s comment contradicts earlier sentiments from Biden’s team, including an April memo describing Florida as “winnable” and a recent trip to the Sunshine State by Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison.
  • The race between House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Bob Good and Trump-endorsed state Sen. John McGuire in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District remained too close to call as of Wednesday morning, per the Associated Press. McGuire led Good by 373 votes—0.6 percentage points—ahead of an expected recount. That has not stopped McGuire’s supporters from declaring victory. Former President Donald Trump on Monday proclaimed McGuire the winner, and Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Rich Anderson also congratulated him the same day. Good, meanwhile, is attempting to block certification of the result and has promoted claims of fires and unproven accusations of voter fraud in certain precincts.
  • Meanwhile, Good’s allies in the House Freedom Caucus are debating whether to remove Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson for backing McGuire, Semafor reported Tuesday. Davidson endorsed McGuire two days before the June 18 primary, describing him as “conservative and effective.” Davidson opposed Good’s bid to lead the House Freedom Caucus and declined to seek re-election to the group’s board in December following Good’s election as chair. 
  • And here’s some more tumult within the House Republican conference. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna of Florida is planning to force a vote this week to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in “inherent contempt,” Axios reports. Congress uses its inherent contempt power sparingly, last exercising it 90 years ago to imprison an intransigent federal aviation regulator. If successful, Luna’s resolution would compel the House’s sergeant-at-arms to arrest Garland, whom the House voted to hold in contempt earlier this month. But Luna’s fellow House Republicans seem mostly annoyed with her effort. “There is considerable opposition to the measure among Republicans – enough to easily kill it given the GOP’s narrow majority, according to several lawmakers familiar with the matter,” Axios reports. “It was discussed at Republicans’ weekly leadership meeting, said one House Republican, telling Axios that ‘people in the room don’t want it to happen.’”
  • Republicans may remove language supporting a nationwide abortion ban from their party platform ahead of the Republican National Convention next month in Milwaukee, NOTUS reported Tuesday. The plank, last revised in 2016, may be replaced with one reflecting presumptive nominee Trump’s position that states should individually decide their abortion policies in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision. Abortion is a significant topic this election season as Democrats hope to make their support of increased abortion access a winning issue and turnout motivator in competitive races.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump Diverge on Debate Prep Strategy

Donald Trump and Joe Biden and moderator participate in a presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. (Photo by CHIP SOMODEVILLA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Joe Biden and moderator participate in a presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. (Photo by CHIP SOMODEVILLA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

ATLANTA— The stakes are high as President Joe Biden and his immediate predecessor, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, meet Thursday in this Southern capital for an unusually early televised debate, the first of the 2024 campaign.

It’s not exactly a Thunderdome, no-holds-barred, battle to the death. Biden and Trump will face off for 90 minutes of bloodless, verbal combat inside an air-conditioned television studio at CNN Center in Atlanta. There are rules for this prime-time debate—agreed upon by the candidates—which likely will be strictly enforced by moderators Dana Bash and Jake Tapper. But politically, the showdown could prove equally fatal.

Biden is the 81-year-old Democratic incumbent whom a majority of voters believe is too old for the rigors of the presidency, surveys show. A subpar performance that reinforces concerns about his mental and physical readiness could set him back immeasurably, possibly permanently. Indeed, Biden wanted to debate more than three months earlier than usual to counter the narrative that he is not up for the job and reclaim a lead in the polls Trump, 78, has owned since last fall.

“The importance of debates are most often overblown,” Jeffrey Brauer, a political science professor at Keystone College, near the president’s hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, told Dispatch Politics. “However, this debate is truly unprecedented as it is occurring months earlier than ever before and is between, essentially, incumbents, which hasn’t happened in the modern era.”

Brauer added: “It does seem that there is more at stake for Biden as he needs to convince the coalition that elected him in 2020 to get back on board. Whereas Trump’s supporters seem to be with him, even through felony convictions, no matter what he says or how he acts.” 

For roughly four decades, presidential debates were managed by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, composed of current and former elected officials and media figures. The commission would pick the moderators, pick the host site, and set the schedule, which usually called for three debates held in late September and early to mid October. Biden and Trump, each with their own reasons for bypassing the commission, negotiated terms and in mid-May agreed to square off Thursday evening on CNN. 

Biden appears to recognize the gravity of the event. For days, he has been out of public view and sequestered in formal debate prep—first at his vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and then at Camp David, a White House retreat in the Maryland mountains. Compare that to the former president, who during this same time has been hosting campaign rallies, sitting for media interviews, picking fights with the moderators and teasing the possibility of unveiling his running mate as early as Wednesday.

If it’s true that Biden has more on the line, he’s also placing a big bet on himself. (Perhaps the president is confident because he clearly bested Trump four years ago.) 

In conjunction with the debate, a Biden campaign memorandum from communications director Michael Tyler revealed plans for multiple events in Georgia, 300 debate watch parties and 1,600 additional events—community gatherings, grassroots trainings and voter canvassing—across battleground states. The push includes new advertising on television, radio and digital platforms, plus coordinated  support from social media influencers on Instagram, TikTok and X—some of whom will join other prominent Democrats in the post-debate spin room. 

On Friday, Biden heads to Raleigh, North Carolina, to rally voters, while Vice President Kamala Harris will do the same in Las Vegas.

“With the debate just days away, Team Biden-Harris is putting a magnifying glass on the choice this week as Democrats in Atlanta and across the country organize around this moment,” Tyler wrote in the memo, issued Sunday.

If the debate goes south for Trump, he’ll have only himself to blame. Biden might not have had the leverage to negotiate a late June face-off on CNN if not for a couple of developments. No. 1, the president’s Republican challenger had turned against the Commission on Presidential Debates, insisting the organization was biased against him. No. 2, Trump repeatedly declared he would debate Biden anytime, anywhere. The president ultimately took him up on the offer, potentially to his advantage.

Trump is not hampered by doubts about his age. But after skipping the Republican primary debates, he is out of practice. Plus, the former president and his Republican allies have done Biden the favor of lowering expectations to the bare minimum. They insist the president has mentally and physically whithered such that the only way he’ll last through a debate standing at a podium for 90 minutes is to jack himself up on performance-enhancing drugs. 

Trump’s light debate prep suggests a lack of concern that Biden might prove more formidable than he expects, at least per his campaign’s public statements. Asked what the former president is doing to get ready, campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt essentially told Fox News’ Jesse Watters “not much.” 

“President Trump is continuing with his very busy schedule,” she said. “Over the past week he has given hours-long speeches to crowds of thousands in three different cities. He’s met with policy advisers to talk about issues that matter to Americans. He’s taken questions directly from Americans at a cheesesteak shop in Philly.”

Like Biden, Trump is utilizing the debate to generate grassroots support for what amounts to a reelection bid. On Wednesday, the former president’s campaign was set to host a black business leaders roundtable at a barbershop in Atlanta to woo this crucial demographic, headlined by Reps. Byron Donalds of Florida and Wesley Hunt of Texas—and former Trump Cabinet official Ben Carson. Additionally, the Republican National Committee was coordinating a series of debate watch parties in Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

The next day, Trump is holding one of his signature campaign rallies in Chesapeake, Virginia, making a play for a state that has not supported a Republican for president in 20 years.

Jamaal Bowman’s Defeat Headlines Tuesday Primary Results

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York speaks during his election night party at the Grand Roosevelt Ballroom in New York City on June 25, 2024. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York speaks during his election night party at the Grand Roosevelt Ballroom in New York City on June 25, 2024. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

The last primary elections in a June filled with important contests took place Tuesday. And—unlike last week—the marquee matchup was over fairly quickly.

Democrat George Latimer defeated incumbent Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the deep-blue New York 16th Congressional District by nearly 17 points. The executive of Westchester County, Latimer challenged the progressive “Squad” member, who first won election to the House of Representatives in 2020. Following Bowman’s harsh criticism of Israel and its actions in its war against Hamas, the issue became a defining wedge in the race.

In the lead-up to the race, Bowman and his allies attempted to frame the electoral battle as one of grassroots support against big money, especially with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) spending more than $14 million to help make his primary the most expensive in American history. “We are gonna show f—ing AIPAC the power of the motherf—ing South Bronx,” Bowman said at a Saturday rally with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders. (The rally took place in St. Mary’s Park in the South Bronx, an area not in Bowman’s district, which encompasses Yonkers, White Plains, and a small part of the northern Bronx).

However, as others have noted, while AIPAC did spend significantly in support of Latimer, the story of the race is more complicated than the lobbying group successfully putting Bowman on a political hit list. Between January and March, Bowman was losing by double digits in a poll from the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC, only up by 1 point in his own poll, and losing by about 10 points in Latimer’s internal polling—all before AIPAC’s advertising efforts began in May.

In his move to the left on Israel, Bowman also alienated more liberal Jews, namely J Street, a progressive pro-Israel organization. The group had endorsed him in 2020 and 2022, but it withdrew its support in January 2024, following the congressman’s use of the term “genocide” to describe Israel’s actions in Gaza and his praise of anti-Israel scholar Norman Finkelstein, who said Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack “warms every fiber of my soul.” In March, a video emerged of Bowman describing reported sexual violence by Hamas on women in Israel as “propaganda” at a November event. He later apologized for his association with Finkelstein and his comments about sexual violence.

Nonetheless, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said Bowman’s defeat was not a victory for pro-Israel Americans, denouncing AIPAC’s efforts. “Spending nearly $15 million of primarily Republican donor money to shut down debate on Israel is not the way to win friends and influence politicians in the Democratic Party,” he posted on X.

Meanwhile, on the right side of the political aisle, a number of Republican primary candidates who received endorsements from former President Donald Trump lost their contests Tuesday.

Utah Rep. John Curtis defeated Trump endorsee and Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs by 20 points in his bid for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. As Dispatch Politics reported Monday, a Trump endorsement was less likely to sway Utah voters, to whom Curtis’ moderate streak appealed.

In South Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District, nurse practitioner Sheri Biggs beat pastor Mark Burns, who has served as a spiritual adviser to Trump, by 2 points in a run-off. Burns had received the most votes in the state’s crowded May 21 primary, but he failed to win a majority and was forced into a runoff with Briggs. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, an ally of Trump, endorsed Biggs over Burns.

Colorado’s 5th Congressional District saw conservative activist Jeff Crank blow out state Republican Party Chairman Dave Williams by more than 30 points. Williams drew criticism because he used thousands of dollars of party money to fund his campaign. Mainstream conservative organizations spent money in the race to support Crank, who had the backing of Speaker of the House Mike Johnson.

The three victors are expected to defeat their Democratic opponents in the general election without much difficulty.

Colorado was home to other notable primary races. Rep. Lauren Boebert won her primary by nearly 40 points in the state’s deep-red 4th District, in which she chose to run following the retirement of Rep. Ken Buck. In her more competitive soon-to-be old 3rd District, where Trump did not make an endorsement, attorney Jeff Hurd, the former chair of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, emerged victorious in the Republican primary by double digits, defeating former state Rep. Ron Hanks, a fringe candidate whom Democrats attempted to boost over Hurd.

Notable and Quotable


—Former President Donald Trump in a Truth Social post, referencing a demand from Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson that President Joe Biden take a drug test before Thursday’s presidential debate, June 24, 2024

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.

Charles Hilu is a reporter for The Dispatch based in Virginia. Before joining the company in 2024, he was the Collegiate Network Fellow at the Washington Free Beacon and interned at both National Review and the Washington Examiner. When he is not writing and reporting, he is probably listening to show tunes or following the premier sports teams of the University of Michigan and city of Detroit.

Grant Lefelar is an intern at The Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company for the 2024 summer, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wrote for a student magazine, Carolina Review, and covered North Carolina state politics and news for Carolina Journal. When Grant is not reporting or helping with newsletters, he is probably rooting for his beloved Tar Heels, watching whatever’s on Turner Classic Movies, or wildly dancing alone to any song by Prefab Sprout.

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.