Crypto Unmentioned at First 2024 U.S. Presidential Debate

The crypto industry hoped for a question about regulatory or related issues, but the lengthy debate focused on other matters.

AccessTimeIconJun 28, 2024 at 2:55 a.m. UTC
Updated Jun 28, 2024 at 2:58 a.m. UTC

Crypto did not come up during the first general debate in the 2024 U.S. presidential election, despite industry participants' hopes.

This first debate between current President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump – each their parties' presumptive nominee – was held Thursday in Atlanta, Georgia by CNN, hosted by CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. The 90-minute debate began with the economy but also touched on issues like abortion, immigration and foreign policy. The economic section was brief, and the debate barely approached technology policy, let alone the digital assets industry.

Crypto has been a talking point for candidates and lawmakers through this election cycle, but emerged in a big way after Trump began discussing crypto issues on the campaign trail, promising to commute the sentence of Silk Road's Ross Ulbricht and making statements about regulation. For his part, Biden's campaign has not made any public statements about crypto, though his administration recently said he wants to work with Congress on legislation addressing crypto.

Biden, who took office in January 2021, sounded raspy and was soft-spoken throughout the evening, reportedly due to a cold. Trump was louder and clearer, though fact-checkers dinged his assertions throughout the debate more than Biden's.

For its part, the crypto industry is hoping for a Congress and administration that may pass legislation friendlier to digital asset businesses. To that end, participants are looking to repeat the massive spending on elections from 2022, with companies like Coinbase, Ripple and Andresseen Horowitz donating close to $50 million apiece to political action committees like Fairshake to support candidates.

The industry has notched a number of wins in the primary season, with PAC support funding ads against Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) who ran for a Senate seat and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) in a primary for his reelection.

The first part of Thursday's debate focused on the economy, with the moderators asking about inflation, the cost of living and the national debt over the past few years.

A prediction market on Polymarket gave Trump better odds of winning in November during the debate, with bets reaching as high as 68 cents, versus Biden at 29 cents. Each share pays out $1 if the prediction comes true, and zero if not, meaning the market thinks Trump has a 68% chance of winning.

Edited by Marc Hochstein and Jesse Hamilton.


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Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.