'What did he just say?' The 5 biggest takeaways from the first Trump Biden presidential debate.

No, we haven't gone back in time. Yes, that is Donald Trump and Joe Biden all over your news headlines again in a flashback to 2020. 

In fact, it's the first direct interaction the US president and his predecessor have shared since the last presidential campaign. 

This debate has come unusually early in the campaign, given Biden and Trump are still the presumptive nominees of their respective parties. They've only agreed to two debates (instead of the usual three), with the second to be held in September a month before America votes on November 5. 

Watch Biden respond to a question about the state of the economy.

Video via CNN.

To avoid a repeat of their chaotic debates from five years ago, Biden insisted — and Trump agreed — to hold the debate without an audience and to allow the host network CNN, to mute the candidates' microphones when it is not their turn to speak.

We've done you the solid of pulling together the five biggest takeaways from the event to get you up to speed. 

1. Biden's performance is being described as "terrible."

He stammered, he stumbled, he confused facts and figures on multiple occasions and delivered an overall shaky, halting performance that left many Democrats concerned. 

Biden even failed to articulate strong arguments on some of his campaign's biggest selling points — like his support for abortion rights.


That's despite a full week of holing himself up at Camp David with more than a dozen aides to prepare and practice his answers, according to The Washington Post.

POLITICO spoke to about a dozen Democrats who were granted anonymity to discuss their thoughts freely, with one former Biden White House campaign aide calling it "terrible" adding, "What did he just say? This is crazy."

Even those Democrats in the public eye didn't mince their words, with Vice President Kamala Harris admitting on CNN, "It was a slow start, that’s obvious to everyone. I’m not going to debate that point."

Technically Biden is not officially endorsed yet, and the Democrats could in theory choose another candidate. But as The Guardian reports, such a move would be a first in modern times so late in the game.

2. Trump lied... a lot. 

Trump spent much of the debate either outright lying, delivering half-truths or deflecting entirely—like when he was asked about the January 6 insurrection and he just changed the topic. 

To give you an example of how he lied, at one point he claimed Democrats want abortions up and until and after birth. He'd take a kernel of truth (Democrats support a woman's right to access abortion) and stretch it to a ridiculous extreme. 

Afterwards, Trump shared his thoughts on his own social media platform 'Truth Social', "As I walked off the stage on Thursday night, at the end of the highly anticipated 'Debate,' anchors, political reporters and all screamed that I had had the greatest debate performance in the long and storied history of Presidential Debates. They all said, effectively, 'Trump was fantastic!'"

As Time reported, "we have been unable to find a record of any political anchors or reporters publicly saying that." 


In fact POLITICO went as far as to call it "the worst debate performance in American history," pointing out that even with Trump's "tsunami of dishonesty," he still came off looking better than Biden. 

3. They talked about abortion, immigration and... golf.

Trump and Biden's visions for America couldn't be more different. Though their thoughts on policy aren't what's making news in the debate's aftermath, they did manage to squeeze in some opinions. 

Trump completely ignored questions on climate change, also glossing over whether he would accept the results of the upcoming election if he lost. 

He also denied Stormy Daniels' allegations, which led to his conviction for falsification of business records, saying, "I didn’t have sex with a porn star...I did nothing wrong, we have a system that was rigged and disgusting."

He simultaneously promised sweeping plans to remake the US government if he returns to the White House.

Biden defended his record on the economy, saying he inherited an economy that was "in a freefall" and that his administration put it back together again.

Both candidates slammed each other for a perceived diminishment of America’s standing in the world, with immigration and economy being big topics of the debate.

Abortion rights was another big topic given this is the first presidential race since the landmark Roe v Wade ruling was overturned.

Biden blamed Trump for eroding abortion rights telling him "it's been a terrible thing what you've done." Trump at least shared (for the first time) that he agreed with a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to preserve abortion pill accessibility at the very least.

In regards to Gaza, Biden said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had endorsed his plan to resolve the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Trump replied, "actually, Israel is the one who wants to keep going" and "we should let them go and let them finish the job."


Bizarrely, golf got a fair bit of airtime — the two men arguing over who had a better handicap and a better swing. 

4. Age was a focus (and with good reason).

The elephant in the room is the fact that both men are getting on in age, which they were of course asked about in the debate. With Trump 78 and Biden 81 — these two hold the record of the oldest presidential candidates in history. The concerns aren't just whether they are up to the job, but if they truly understand the wants and needs of their younger constituents. 

But when given an opportunity to respond, their answers devolved into personal insults, although Trump did point out that he "aced" cognitive tests and feels like he’s in "very good shape". 

At a rally after the showdown, Biden told voters, "I know I'm not a young man, to state the obvious. I don't walk as easy as I used to, I don't speak as smoothly as I used to, I don't debate as well as I used to.

"I would not be running again if I didn't believe with all my heart and soul that I could do this job. The stakes are too high."

4. And the winner is...

According to CNN's polling, Trump won with 67 per cent of votes compared to Biden's 33 per cent.

By way of comparison, in 2020 Biden was seen by debate watchers as outperforming Trump in both of their presidential debates. 

The next Biden-Trump debate is scheduled to take place on September 10, hosted by US broadcaster ABC News.

Feature image: Justin Sullivan/Getty.