President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are set to square off Thursday in their first debate of the 2024 cycle, a pivotal event amid a tightly contested race, with public opinion polls indicating a close margin – albeit with months left and significant campaign spending ahead.

Seasoned CNN anchors Dana Bash and Jake Tapper will guide the 90-minute Q&A. (Disclosure: This writer considers both as friends).

Here are six questions on critical issues for both candidates. But first, a few notes:

  • They are directed to both candidates, not aimed specifically at one.
  • They are largely disconnected from breaking news, though Thursday is a Supreme Court decision day, which may prompt questions.
  • They do not encompass all pertinent questions, such as one directly concerning the economy, typically pivotal to voters.

Given the personality-driven nature of the debate, there’s a speculative aspect to policy-centered queries. These contenders make no claim to mutual admiration.

Below, we list each question and its rationale, rather than order of importance. While posing a well-constructed question doesn’t ensure a substantial response, politicians often deflect queries they’d rather avoid.

Question 1: Is Social Security viable in your view? If not, how would you reinforce it? Rationale: The Social Security Administration projects that in 2024, an average of 68 million Americans will receive benefits. Yet, without Congressional action, long-term solvency is uncertain. This might also initiate a conversation on inflation, which has disproportionately affected fixed-income groups.

Question 2: At the close of 2023, the UN tallied a record 117 million people globally displaced against their will. Conflict, crime, and climate are primary contributors. What should the US do to aid refugees and mitigate global upheaval? Rationale: Beyond an immigration matter, this probes America’s global role under divergent perspectives of Trump and Biden concerning Washington’s international responsibilities and alliances.

Question 3: The surgeon general has advocated for social media warnings akin to cigarette labels, targeted at minors. Do you endorse this? What constraints, if any, should exist for minors using popular platforms? Rationale: States increasingly restrict adolescent access to social media, despite uncertain impacts on youth mental health. Should there be federal oversight? Both Biden and Trump navigate a complex relationship with platforms like TikTok, each having voiced support for its US ban.

Question 4: Should federal measures be adopted to render childcare more affordable? Rationale: COVID-era fiscal policies eased hardships for many but have expired or been scaled back. Rising childcare costs, coupled with the 2021 child care tax credit lapse, have amplified child poverty. What is your approach?

Question 5: If elected, what measures would you implement to alleviate the emotional and financial burden on family caregivers? Rationale: AARP estimates that about 48 million Americans are family caregivers, a significant voter bloc. Aging caregivers spend an average of $7,200 annually. Addressing their concerns may sway key demographics in battleground states.

Question 6: Polling data reveals substantial dissatisfaction among Americans who oppose both candidates, desiring different party nominees. What’s your appeal to these “double haters”? Why should they vote for you instead of abstaining? Rationale: There is widespread discontent with the 2024 choice. Both contenders lean on strategies to portray voting against them as inconceivable. It would be revealing to observe their responses and whether either has crafted a pitch to sway potential non-voters or protest voters.