HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) — U.S. President Joe Biden and his Republican rival, former President Donald Trump, met for the first general election debate of the 2024 season — a chance for the candidates to try to reshape the political narrative and persuade undecided voters.

Thursday’s 90-minute debate was held in Atlanta and hosted by CNN. Americans with varying opinions on the nation’s most pressing issues gathered at venues across the country for watch parties.

Elaine Freeman, a Trump supporter from Oxford, Ohio, and employee at the local Veterans Affairs hospital, said the economy is the most important issue in this election. For her family, the cost of living is too high and she has trouble covering the cost of basics like groceries every week.

“For what I make, 15 years ago I would be considered upper middle class,” said Freeman, who watched at an event in Hamilton, Ohio. “I should not be living paycheck to paycheck.”

Adriana Varea, a policy and legislation fellow for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said immigration is a huge issue and that gun control should be addressed. She said she goes to school in Lewiston, Maine, the site of a mass shooting in 2023 in which 18 people were killed.

“Gun control is definitely something that I’m passionate about,” said Varea, who was at a debate watching event in Las Vegas.

Reginald Marsh, owner of the M Lounge in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago, watched with customers and said there’s not one top issue for him.

“I just believe Trump is dangerous for this country,” he said.

London’s Bar & Grill in McAllen, Texas, is normally loud on a day close to the weekend, but the owners said they were surprised so many were quiet and engaged with the debate.

Hector Mercado, a military veteran donning a beret who lives in Edinburg, Texas, said he liked what Trump said about closing the border.

Virginia Lopez was also at the Texas bar and said she’s an undecided voter.

“I really feel that one of them — the Republican, I’m disappointed with what he’s done — with his behavior,” she said. “And the other one, I just feel like he’s too old.”

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