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Biden Says He’s “Happy” to Debate Trump. Polls From 2020 May Indicate Why.

Biden saw a nearly 4-point bump in his polling numbers the first time he and Trump debated in 2020.

President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Correspondents' Association dinner at the Washington Hilton, in Washington, D.C., on April 27, 2024.

On Howard Stern’s radio program on Friday, President Joe Biden indicated that he was willing to debate former President Donald Trump, his Republican rival in the 2024 presidential election.

During the interview, Stern told the Democratic incumbent president that it was a “fantasy” of his to see Biden square off against Trump. Biden replied that a debate would indeed happen at some point during the remainder of the campaign.

“I don’t know when,” Biden said, adding that he would be “happy to debate him.”

Stern responded by offering Biden advice on how to handle such a debate, telling the president that he should simply repeat Trump’s election lies and belabor the fact that he tried to overturn the 2020 election, citing how Trump pressured officials in Georgia to “find” him 11,000 votes as an example.

“That’s the end of the debate,” Stern explained.

Biden responded to Stern by discussing Trump’s inaction during the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol building, when a mob of Trump loyalists stormed Congress seeking to disrupt the certification of Biden’s win over Trump.

“It was derelict — it was almost criminal, he did nothing,” Biden said. “He just sat there and watched what was happening. Now he calls them patriots and victims. And says he’s going to pardon them all if he’s elected?”

Trump responded to Biden’s comments almost immediately, writing on Truth Social on Friday that he doesn’t believe the president “really mean[s] it,” but that he’s ready to debate “ANYWHERE, ANYTIME, [and] ANYPLACE.”

Biden and Trump debated each other twice in the 2020 campaign. Neither has participated in a debate since that time, with Biden being the incumbent president and facing no serious threat to the Democratic nomination, and Trump refusing to take part in numerous GOP debates that occurred during the primary election season.

Biden has previously cast doubt on whether he would participate in a debate with Trump, saying in March that a debate between the two would depend on Trump’s “behavior.”

Biden’s words on Friday, however, seem to indicate that Trump’s temperament is no longer a factor in determining whether he’ll face off against his main challenger in the 2024 race.

Trump’s eagerness to debate Biden is perhaps due to a belief that he will fare better in the polls after the two share a stage. But that view may be misplaced, if history is any indicator.

Before their first debate in September of 2020, Biden was leading Trump in the polls by an average of 6.1 points, according to an aggregate of data from RealClearPolling. Two weeks after that debate, Biden’s lead increased to 10 points, suggesting that if the debate benefited anyone, it was Biden, not Trump.

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