Trump, Biden camps sound off in debate ‘Spin Room’ 

The spin room after former President Donald J. Trump and President Joe Biden’s presidential debate in Atlanta on June 27, 2024. Photo by Madalina Vasiliu. 
The spin room after former President Donald J. Trump and President Joe Biden’s presidential debate in Atlanta on June 27, 2024. Photo by Madalina Vasiliu. 

By Emel Akan, Janice Hisle 
Contributing Writers 

ATLANTA — The CNN Presidential Debate “spin room” featured a parade of possible vice president picks and many other Republicans who touted former President Donald Trump’s performance onstage. But only a few Democrats were present to defend President Joe Biden following the candidates’ debate on Thursday. 

About 800 news reporters scrambled for in-person interviews with the men’s surrogates at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion. 

That site is adjacent to the CNN studio where the two candidates met. The debate itself was “completely closed to press,” the network said in an email to reporters. However, CNN permitted a couple dozen photographers to briefly take photographs of the candidates onstage. 

Because the network allowed no audience, the men’s best zingers and worst gaffes occurred in a vacuum, producing only awkward silence rather than enthusiastic cheering or jeering. 

That was just one of many ways that this presidential debate stands out. 

It marked the first time in U.S. politics that a former president confronted a sitting president in a televised debate. 

And, for the first time since 1988, this presidential debate was conducted without involvement from the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. Further, no other presidential debate has been held this early in the election cycle, prior to either major party’s nominating convention. 

In addition, this debate could affect the presidential race more than past debates, based on post-debate commentary. 

‘Slow Start’ but ‘Strong Finish’ 

While 33% of surveyed viewers in a CNN flash poll believed that Biden won, double that number — 67% — thought President Trump was the winner, the network reported. 

Right after the 90-minute program, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia, and Rep. Robert Garcia, D-California, showed up to give their view on Biden’s performance. Reporters swarmed them. 

“I want to remind folks of one important thing … there’s one person in our country that has beaten Donald Trump. His name is Joe Biden,” Garcia said, expressing confidence in Biden’s ability to win the Nov. 5 election. 

His comments were made in response to reporters asking about some Democrats becoming increasingly concerned over the 81-year-old president’s fitness for office following the debate. 

During the event, Biden spoke with a raspy voice, sometimes cleared his throat, and at times stammered. 

The president after the debate told reporters he was suffering from “a sore throat.” 

Asked whether the public would believe that a cold was the reason for the debate performance, Garcia said, “Who cares?” He encouraged journalists to focus on “substance … not style.” 

“The president did what he needed to do tonight, which is being honest to the American people, and to be forceful in defending his record,” Garcia said, accusing Trump of making false statements throughout the debate. 

Newsom gave a strident defense of the president’s performance and called the “panic” among some Democrats both unhelpful and unnecessary. 

“We’ve got to have the back of this president. You don’t turn your back because of one performance. What kind of party does that?” the governor said in a post-debate interview with MSNBC. 

Following the debate, talk of replacing Biden as the Democrats’ nominee at or before their convention in August began circulating. 

Vice President Kamala Harris told CNN that she thought “there was a slow start but a strong finish” for Biden at the debate. 

The vice president pushed back against characterizations that Biden comes across as “weak,” saying she has witnessed world leaders asking for his advice. She also asserted that the work he has done since 2021 is more important than how he behaved onstage for 90 minutes. 

The ‘Veepstakes’ Heats Up 

Meanwhile, Trump’s potential VPs and other representatives gave their spin: Trump remained calm while delivering a knockout victory. 

Chris LaCivita, a top Trump advisor and Republican National Committee leader, said: “It was literally, I think, the most lopsided win in debate history and American politics.” He said that the incumbent’s performance was, at times, “tough to watch.” 

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, one of the possible running mates for Trump, said, “This could be one of the most consequential presidential debates in history because of the contrast” between the two candidates. 

After the nation’s first televised presidential debate in 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, people said, “You could tell who won with the [TV] sound off.” 

He said the situation was similar in this debate. “If you had the sound off tonight, you knew who was in charge, who was strong, and who was weak,” Burgum said. 

Another potential VP, Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, said he and the former president haven’t discussed who might become his running mate. Vance said the decision is tough and “I’m glad I don’t have to make it.” 

Other potential VPs who gave spin room interviews included Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, and Byron Donalds, R-Florida; Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina; and Dr. Ben Carson, Trump’s former housing secretary. 

The former president previously had disclosed that Ohio businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, a former Republican presidential candidate, was also in the running. Ramaswamy told reporters that the former president has not asked him to fulfill that role. That person will have “a remarkable ability to serve this country in taking that America First agenda even further,” Ramaswamy said. 

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, predicted that Trump will see “a bump” in swing-state polls in the coming days. 

Shortly after the debate, Biden and First Lady Jill Biden attended a debate watch party for his supporters at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta. 

Attendees chanted “Four more years!” as the couple arrived. 

Mrs. Biden said her husband did “a great job.” 

Biden also commented on his performance, telling reporters “I think we did well.” 

T.J. Muscaro contributed to this report. 

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