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What you need to know about the US presidential election

The 2024 US presidential election is making history on many levels.

It pits a former president, Republican Donald Trump, against the current one, Democrat Joe Biden, in the country’s first rematch for the White House in nearly 70 years.

At 81, Mr Biden would be the oldest American to win a presidential election should he secure a second four-year term in November. He has rebuffed questions about his mental acuity and physical stamina.

Trump, who turns 78 on 14 June, would also be among the oldest men to serve as leader should he win another term.

He became the first former US president to be convicted of a crime when a New York jury found him guilty of falsifying documents to cover up a payment to silence an adult film star ahead of the 2016 election.

Trump is due to be sentenced on 11 July and has said he will appeal the verdict.

Robert F Kennedy Junior, 70, a member of a famous political family, is running as an independent with the potential of serving as a spoiler candidate who siphons votes from Mr Biden or Trump.

National opinion polls show the current and former president locked in a tight race ahead of the 5 November election, with voters citing the economy, border security and political extremism as top concerns.

Both candidates suffer from low approval ratings, making turnout a potential issue.

Trump has refused to say he will abide by the election results. He and his allies are laying the groundwork for a significant poll-watching effort and potential post-election legal challenges.

What is Biden’s main electoral argument?

President Biden’s pitch for a second term rests on his stewardship of the economy as it emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic, and what he calls the “battle for the soul of America” – a fight against Trump and aligned Republicans whom Mr Biden labels as extremists.

Much of his campaign is focused on warning voters that Trump poses a mortal threat to American democracy.

Mr Biden has accused Trump of instigating the 6 January 2021 attack on the US Capitol and plotting revenge against those seeking to punish him.

At the same time, the president and his campaign have argued that the economy, which is the top priority for many voters, has rebounded significantly, with unemployment dropping to generational lows, gross domestic product growing faster than expected and wages rising.

However, inflation continues to be a sticking point after peaking in 2022. While it has eased in recent months, voters remain concerned about the high price of staples such as food, fuel, cars and housing.

Mr Biden can point to federal investments in infrastructure, clean energy and chip manufacturing that he says will generate long-term job growth.

On foreign policy, he is a traditionalist who believes in the US taking a leading role in international affairs to maintain global security.

What is Trump’s main electoral argument?

Trump and his campaign contend that Americans were better off economically during his time in the White House, pointing to inflation and high interest rates under President Biden’s watch.

Voters gave the edge to Trump over Mr Biden in terms of which candidate is better for the economy by 41% to 34%, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll in April.

Trump has said he will cut federal spending, which Republicans blame for stoking inflation and triggering consumer-price spikes, trim back federal regulations; and lower taxes.

He also has said he will revive stricter immigration policies from his time in office to stem the record flow of migrants into the US from Mexico and conduct mass deportations.

Thousands of those migrants have been bussed to large cities across the country, taxing public resources.

Trump has claimed, without evidence, that the influx has led to a rise in violent crime.

As a rebuttal to Mr Biden’s charge that he is a danger to democracy, Trump has accused the current administration of weaponising the Justice Department in order to prosecute him and prevent him from winning another term. The department says it acts without political bias.

On foreign policy, Trump embraces what he calls an “America First” agenda that seeks to avoid international entanglements.

He has pledged to keep the country out of “forever wars” and claims he could end the Ukraine-Russia conflict within 24 hours.

What are Trump’s legal troubles?

Following the guilty verdict in New York, Trump still faces indictments in three cases in federal and state courts for his attempts to overturn his 2020 defeat to Mr Biden and his mishandling of classified documents.

None of those trials are yet scheduled, and delays including the US Supreme Court’s decision to hear Trump’s presidential immunity claim could mean that none of them take place before the election.

He has maintained his innocence in all the cases.

The guilty verdict in the hush-money case may convince some Republicans to drop their support for Trump, though opinions could change with the election still five months away.

Where do Biden and Trump stand on abortion?

Democrats have made abortion central to their 2024 campaign, two years after the Supreme Court – powered by a conservative majority that Trump installed – overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision and ruled that abortion was not constitutionally protected.

Opinion polls show most Americans do not favour strict limits on reproductive rights, and Democrats are hoping threats to those rights will encourage millions of women and independents to vote their way this year.

Mr Biden, a Catholic who at times has disagreed with his party’s support for abortion rights, has pledged to sign legislation into law codifying them after the Supreme Court ruling.

The issue has divided Republicans, with Trump saying the matter should be left to individual states and others pushing for a national ban. He supports exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother.

Where do Biden and Trump stand on border security?

Since taking office in 2021, President Biden has grappled with record numbers of migrants caught illegally crossing the US-Mexico border.

This month, as polls showed border security a top issue for the election, he implemented a series of restrictive security measures that permit the government to quickly deport or turn back migrants who enter the country illegally without allowing them to claim asylum.

The measures bore resemblance to Trump-era border policies, prompting criticism from liberals, who have said they will contest the policies in court.

Trump has vowed to step up border security and oversee the largest deportation effort in US history.

In February, he urged congressional Republicans to back away from a bipartisan bill that gave his party many of the border-related measures it sought in order to avoid giving Mr Biden a policy victory.

Where do Biden and Trump stand on the Israel-Hamas conflict?

Mr Biden has been heavily criticised by many Democrats for his steadfast support of Israel in its conflict with Hamas in Gaza, with protests breaking out in cities and on university campuses nationwide.

The administration has called on the Israeli government to temper its assault on the territory, where more than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to health officials, and has blocked at least one US shipment of weapons to Israel.

President Biden recently outlined a three-phase ceasefire agreement intended to end the conflict, but it remains unclear whether Israel and Hamas will sign off on it.

Trump and Republicans also back Israel, and have accused pro-Palestinian protesters of being antisemitic.

But Trump has urged Israel to “finish up” the war or risk losing global support. He has not been clear about whether his policy toward Israel would be different from Mr Biden’s.

Where do Biden and Trump stand on China?

The Biden administration has said it wants to “de-risk” and not “de-couple” its relationship with China and work to keep the competition between the world’s top two economic powers from escalating into conflict.

Even so, the president recently proposed imposing more tariffs on Chinese goods such as steel and aluminum products.

Mr Biden has sworn to protect Taiwan from a Chinese attack. Trump favours a policy of strategic ambiguity to deliberately create uncertainty about how the US would act if there was a Chinese invasion.

While some Republicans view China as a rising national security threat, Trump largely has characterised the country as an economic rival and has vowed to impose further tariffs on Chinese imports.

Where do Biden and Trump stand on Ukraine?

Mr Biden has been a fierce advocate of providing weapons and other assistance to Ukraine in its war with Russia, while Trump has repeatedly expressed doubts about whether such aid lies in the US national interest.

The former president more recently said, however, that the survival of Ukraine was important to the US.

In April, he declined to lobby against passage of a $95 billion bipartisan aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan spearheaded by Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson – even as it was opposed by Trump’s allies in Congress.

In February, he made waves when he suggested the US should not defend NATO countries that do not meet their obligations to contribute to their national defence.

What are the key states in the 2024 election?

Republicans will formally nominate Trump this summer at their convention in Milwaukee while Democrats will nominate Mr Biden at their gathering in Chicago.

That both parties are holding their conventions in the midwest shows the value they are placing on Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all of which went for Trump in 2016 and flipped to Mr Biden in 2020.

Arizona, Georgia and Nevada have also proven to be closely divided and contain growing populations that may determine the next election.

Another key battleground could be North Carolina, a southern state with an increasingly diverse electorate.

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