ESPN to air Obama and McCain interviews on MNF

Updated: October 30, 2008, 6:08 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

On the eve of the presidential election, with "Monday Night Football" from Washington as the backdrop, candidates Barack Obama and John McCain are planning to participate in one-on-one interviews on ESPN via satellite.

ESPN's Chris Berman will do the segments earlier Monday, pending last-minute schedule changes by the candidates, and they'll air at halftime of the Redskins-Pittsburgh Steelers broadcast from D.C., the network announced. The game kicks off at 8:30 p.m. ET.

The interviews will give both Obama, the Democratic senator from Illinois, and McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona, a last major chance to appeal to Americans during a coveted spot on prime-time television. "Monday Night Football" has averaged 12.2 million viewers this season.

"We worked with our partners at the NFL to schedule a Monday Night Football game in Washington on this special night, and this presents a unique opportunity for John McCain and Barack Obama to reflect upon the last few months and address a large primetime audience on the final day of the campaigns," Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president, production, said in a statement.

It will be the first NFL game played in the D.C. area on the Monday night before a presidential election in 24 years. The Redskins defeated the Atlanta Falcons 27-14 on Nov. 5, 1984; Ronald Reagan was re-elected the following day.

The Redskins, in fact, are an accurate barometer for presidential elections. According to Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau, who coined the term "Redskins Rule" in 2000, the following bromide has held true for the past 17 presidential elections: If the Redskins win their last home game prior to Election Day, the party that won the popular vote in the previous election wins the White House; if the Redskins lose, the party that lost the popular vote in the previous election wins.

In this Monday's case, a Steelers win would forecast an Obama victory; a Redskins win would indicate a McCain win.

"Monday Night Football" is the most-watched series in cable television history. Now in its third season on ESPN, MNF has registered nine of the top 10 all-time biggest household audiences in cable history, led by this year's Eagles-Cowboys telecast on Sept. 15, which attracted cable's largest audience ever -- 13.0 million homes and 18.6 million viewers.

Obama previously appeared on "Monday Night Football" on Dec. 11, 2006, when he opened the broadcast of a game involving his hometown Chicago Bears by parodying his own upcoming official announcement of his intention to run for the presidency.

"I am ready," he said, before putting on a Bears baseball cap, "for the Bears to go all the way, baby!"

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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