For Obama, the presidential debate trumps ‘Monday Night Football’

WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to spend Monday night the same way he spends most fall Monday nights in the White House: Working with the television on in the background.

“I think the one difference will be instead of Monday Night Football, there’ll be a little more politics being discussed in the context of the debate,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday. The first general election debate of the 2016 campaign airs Monday at 9 p.m. ET., opposite the New Orleans Saints-Atlanta Falcons game.

Obama’s acute attention to the general election debates — pitting Democrat Hillary Clinton against Republican Donald Trump — stands in contrast to the primary debates, which Obama often caught up on in the morning newspapers. and it reflects the president’s growing interest in making sure that his former secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, succeeds him in the White House.

“He obviously believes that she’s got a strong case to make, that’s why he’s spoken publicly so many times in support of her campaign,” Earnest said.

Obama, who went head-to-head with Clinton during the 2008 Democratic primaries, has advised his former secretary of State to “be yourself and explain what motivates you,”

Earnest said the president has no similar advice for Donald Trump: “Even if we did, I’m confident it would go unheard,” he said.

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