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Presidential debate ends: Donald Trump triumphs on worst night of Joe Biden's political career

CNN is hosting this first meeting between the two main contenders for the Presidency.  Follow all the updates in this minute-by-minute report.

President Joe Biden debates with former President Donald Trump in Atlanta, GeorgiaCNN

President Joe Biden and former Republican President Donald Trump began their first presidential debate in Atlanta, Georgia, in what is their first face-to-face before the elections next November.

CNN will host this debate at its headquarters in Georgia, one of the swing states that could define the November elections along with Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada.

Both candidates have a lot at stake in this debate.  On Biden's side, analysts agree that the president must convince the public that he is still physically and mentally fit to continue leading the country amid negative polls and very low approval ratings.

Trump, for his part, must try to reach out to independents (the demographic group where he has taken losses in recent months) while questioning the results of Joe Biden's administration on economic, immigration and security issues that are top priorities for voters.

The debate will begin at 21:00 ET and will have clear rules. The campaigns agreed that microphones will be muted except for the candidate who is speaking.  No props or pre-written notes will be allowed either. Also, candidates will receive a pen, notepad and water bottle to use during the debate.

Follow the live updates below:

Donald Trump blasts Biden, rounds off big night with closing statement

Former President Trump managed to round out a big night for his campaign with his closing remarks, which contrasted with Biden's less-than-concise and confusing finish.

“We rebuilt the military, we got the largest tax cut in history, the largest regulation cut in history,” Trump said, as he defended his first term. “The reason he’s got jobs is because I cut the regulation that gave jobs.”

Trump later branded Biden as a "complainer" who did nothing to improve the country's situation. At the same time, he questioned the Democrat's border policy and his handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal and other facets of the president's foreign policy.

“The whole country is exploding because of you, because they don’t respect you, and they have to respect their president,” Trump said. “They don’t respect you throughout the world.”

Biden falters in final speech as he tries to focus on taxes, economy

President Joe Biden, on a night that was tough for him, failed to nail down a good closing argument focused on the economy and taxes.

“We have to make sure that we have a fairer tax system,” Biden said, before attacking Trump's economic legacy.

Later, Biden pledged to work to get inflation under control: “We’re gonna continue to fight to bring down inflation and give people a break.”

Intense backlash against Biden's performance

As the presidential debate unfolds, President Biden is receiving harsh criticism for his performance on an important night in the run-up to the November election.

Overall, Biden has been lackluster and has used a very low tone of voice to the point that he appears to be hoarse.

Some journalists have reported that the Democratic president is suffering from a cold, citing sources close to the Biden campaign. But other journalists have simply questioned the president's performance.

"I keep asking: what happened to the Biden from SOTU? Seems like he's aged like a decade since then," said Rachael Bade, a reporter for Politico.

"I have to say this is embarrassing not just for President Biden but also for our country," said billionaire Bill Ackman, who recently announced he will vote for Trump.

Trump lashes out at Biden over border crisis: “We live in a rat's nest right now”

"He's the one that killed people with the bad border including hundreds of thousands of people dying, and also killing our citizens when they come in. We are living right now in a rat's nest," Trump said at the CNN presidential debate.

"They're killing our people in New York and California and every state in the union because we don't have borders anymore. Every state is now a border," Trump said. "And because of his ridiculous, insane and very stupid policies, people are coming in and they're killing our citizens at a level that we've never seen."

The United States has been going through a major immigration crisis since 2021 since President Biden took office and toppled a number of Trump's immigration policies.

Biden defends himself on the economy, says he inherited an economy in free-fall because of Trump

President Biden claimed he inherited an "economy that was in free-fall" because of President Donald Trump when he took office in January 2021.

"Take a look at what I was left when I became president and what Mr. Trump left me," Biden said. "We had an economy that was in free-fall. The pandemic was so badly handled. Many people were dying."

"What we had to do is try to put things back together again. And that's exactly what we began to do," he added.

However, Trump defended himself, "The only thing he was right about is I gave you the largest tax cut in history. I also gave you the largest regulation cut in history. That's why we had all the jobs ... and then they bounced back. And he's taking credit for bounce back jobs. You can't do that."

"He also said he inherited 9% inflation," Trump added. "He inherited almost no inflation. And it stayed that way for 14 months. And then it blew up under his leadership because they spent money like a bunch of people that didn't know what they were doing."

Trump questions Biden about his withdrawal from Afghanistan

Trump went on the offensive and attacked President Biden over the withdrawal from Afghanistan, calling it "the most shameful day in the history of the life of our country."

"In regards to Afghanistan. He was leaving Afghanistan, but we left with dignity, with strength, with power," Trump said.

Biden suffers his first meltdown

In a confused moment, President Joe Biden lost his train of thought while discussing the impact of COVID-19.

Trump claims the U.S. is "no longer respected" on the world stage thanks to Biden

During CNN's presidential debate, former president Trump claimed that the United States is "no longer respected" on the world stage under President Biden's administration.

"We're no longer respected as a country. They don't respect our leadership. They don't respect the United States anymore," Trump said from the debate stage in Atlanta. "We're like a third world...between weaponization of his election, trying to go after his political opponent, all of the things he's done, we've become like a third world nation, and it's a shame the damage he's done to our country."

Key takeaways from the presidential debate.

What will Trump focus on?

The former Republican president has an advantage in this 2024 debate compared to the 2020 debate: this year he will be able to attack Biden's administration.  That is, Trump will be able to go on the offensive.  He will address several issues that matter to voters: inflation, the housing problem, the immigration crisis, the sense of insecurity and even address unfulfilled campaign promises previously made by the Democratic president.

What will Biden focus on?

The Democratic president has a clear role today: to prove to his critics that he still has the energy to be head of state.  The State of the Union Address saw an energetic, almost frenzied Biden.  Such an image, while it may backfire, will at least make the public reconsider its concerns about the aging president.  Biden will also try to capitalize on Trump's legal troubles and the recent (and contested) Manhattan guilty verdict.  Although that could put his son, Hunter Biden, who also suffered a recent conviction in Delaware, at the center of the debate.

The weaknesses of both candidates.

Biden today will definitely be exposed. It is the first time he will have a political opponent in front of him who will be able to scrutinize his administration.  The Democrat will have to defend himself, above all, on the issues of economy, security and immigration.

Trump, for his part, will also have to walk on eggshells when it comes to issues like abortion or the electoral system.  It is very likely that he will have to answer questions about the events of January 6 at the Capitol or about his legal problems and his recent conviction in New York.  The former president will have to be convincing in the defense in his mission to attract the independent vote in the face of an election with muted predictions.