Crypto Went Overlooked in the First U.S. Presidential Debate

Industry participants and enthusiasts had hoped for a discussion on digital assets, but the 90-minute debate had been anything but.

Crypto Went Overlooked in the First U.S. Presidential Debate

The first general debate of the 2024 U.S. presidential election saw no mention of cryptocurrency, despite the sector's significant lobbying efforts. Industry participants and enthusiasts had hoped for a discussion on digital assets, but the 90-minute debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump had been anything but.

The two candidates focused instead on the economy, abortion rights, immigration, and foreign policy. The debate did not delve into technology policy, let alone the digital assets industry.

Throughout this election cycle, cryptocurrency has been a notable topic among candidates and lawmakers, particularly after Trump addressed crypto issues on the campaign trail. He promised to commute the sentence of Silk Road's Ross Ulbricht and made statements about crypto regulation.

In contrast, Biden’s campaign has remained silent on the issue, although his administration has indicated a desire to collaborate with Congress on crypto legislation. President Biden, who has been in office since January 2021, appeared soft-spoken during the debate, reportedly due to a cold. Trump, on the other hand, was louder and clearer, though his statements were more frequently fact-checked by experts.

The crypto industry is keen on a Congress and administration that might pass legislation favorable to digital asset businesses. In pursuit of this goal, companies like Coinbase, Ripple, and Andreessen Horowitz have donated close to $50 million each to political action committees (PACs) like Fairshake to support candidates. The industry has already seen successes in the primary season, with PACs funding ads against opponents like Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.).

Despite these efforts, the debate's economic section, which covered inflation, the cost of living, and the national debt, did not touch on crypto. A prediction market on Polymarket showed Trump with better odds of winning in November, with bets during the debate reaching as high as 68 cents for Trump compared to 29 cents for Biden, indicating a perceived 68% chance of Trump's victory.

Trump has vowed to end what he calls Biden’s “war on crypto” and held a meeting with Bitcoin miners earlier in June, expressing his desire for the cryptocurrency to be “made in America.” However, opinions within the industry vary, with some, like Kraken CEO Dave Ripley, suggesting Biden is becoming more favorable toward crypto, while others, including crypto advocate Mark Cuban, criticize the current administration's enforcement actions as detrimental to Biden’s reelection chances.

Gallup polls from May reveal that crypto is not a top priority for American voters, who are more concerned with the economy, inflation, poor governance, and immigration. Meanwhile, pro-crypto independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who did not meet CNN’s debate requirements, hosted an alternative "real debate" on X, emphasizing his plans to use AI and blockchain to reduce government waste.

National polling averages from FiveThirtyEight show Trump leading Biden by a narrow margin of 0.2 percentage points (41.1% to 40.9%), with Kennedy polling at 9.1%. The second debate between Biden and Trump is scheduled for September 10, with the presidential election set for November 5, along with elections for vice president, all 435 House seats, and 34 of the 100 Senate seats.

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