Democratic President Joe Biden and his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, are set to face off in a debate on Thursday, marking an early confrontation between the two oldest candidates to vie for the presidency. This 90-minute televised event, scheduled for 9 p.m. ET (0100 GMT on Friday) on CNN, is anticipated to attract a massive viewership, potentially exceeding the 84 million who watched Trump's initial debate in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. Both Biden and Trump enter this debate in Atlanta with significant political vulnerabilities, presenting both risks and opportunities. The debate is occurring unusually early, more than four months before the November 5 Election Day, amidst national polls indicating a close race between the two. The event also unfolds against a backdrop of intense polarization and widespread voter anxiety regarding the state of American politics. A May Reuters/Ipsos poll revealed that two-thirds of voters are concerned about potential election-related violence, reminiscent of the Capitol storming by Trump supporters in 2020. Trump, now 78, faces multiple criminal charges and must convince undecided voters that he does not pose a threat to democracy, as Biden claims. Biden, 81, is under pressure to deliver a strong performance, countering Republican claims of cognitive decline due to age. Both campaigns are set to launch new ad campaigns attacking the other ahead of the debate. The Biden campaign plans to focus on potential threats to reproductive rights, abortion bans, Social Security cuts, and democracy under a second Trump presidency. The Trump campaign will release two new ads during the debate, one addressing economic, immigration, and crime issues, and the other highlighting Biden's physical stumbles and questioning his ability to serve another term. The stakes are high, with any misstep likely to be exploited by the opposing campaign as evidence of cognitive decline. This debate is considered crucial given the close race, deep political divisions, and the potential for significant gaffes. For Biden, a moment of confusion could lead to extensive media coverage on his age and renewed speculation about a possible replacement. While national polls show a tie, Biden trails in most battleground states and has recently lost his financial advantage due to Trump's conviction related to hush money payments. The debate presents a crucial opportunity for Biden to shift the status quo, emphasizing the contrast between his and Trump's records. Both candidates are viewed unfavorably by many Americans, with about a fifth of voters undecided or considering third-party options or abstention, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll. The debate, moderated by CNN to prevent cross-talk and held without an audience, aims to highlight the stark differences between Biden's and Trump's policies and leadership styles. The final debate of the campaign is scheduled for September.