(CNN) — President Joe Biden will skip a pre-Super Bowl interview for the second year in a row — and his aides argue that it’s part of their larger plan, not a move to avoid having the president answer questions in front of the whole country.
Biden advisers tell CNN they see skipping the interview, which would have aired as a segment of the pregame show and not during peak viewing hours on the CBS broadcast, as a strategic decision to give Americans a break from the politics of the 2024 campaign. Advisers say they’re seeing people already expressing fatigue with election news and want to avoid piling on.
The decision was made ahead of last week’s right-wing media explosion about Taylor Swift and her boyfriend, tight end Travis Kelce, after he and the Kansas City Chiefs made it to the Super Bowl, where they’ll face the San Francisco 49ers. MAGA media personalities have been circulating conspiracy theories about the pop superstar, promoting the notion that she is part of a sprawling psychological operations plot staged by the NFL and Democratic Party to deliver the 2024 presidential election to Biden.
The pregame presidential interview is a relatively young tradition, stretching back only to Barack Obama’s first year in office, and one that Donald Trump skipped once himself. But for Biden, who for months has been complaining in public and in conversations with top advisers that messaging touting his achievements isn’t breaking through to the public, the decision means skipping out on an audience of millions — including many who might not otherwise be paying attention to presidential politics.
It’s also the latest instance of Biden opting against a high-profile interview with a large audience. That has become a constant source of irritation for the White House press corps, but has also fed questions of whether he is up to doing them. In response, Biden advisers often point to the many times each week the president takes questions from reporters as he is headed across the White House South Lawn to board Marine One, or interviews like those he did on local radio this past week ahead of Saturday’s South Carolina Democratic primary.
Biden advisers say that there are no concerns about insulating the president, and that it wasn’t part of the decision on this interview.
On Saturday, Biden argued there is more than regular politics to the 2024 race, saying in remarks at his Wilmington, Delaware, campaign headquarters, “This is not just a campaign. This is more of a mission. We cannot, we cannot, we cannot lose this campaign, for the good of the country.”
“I think everybody knows it and I think it’s beginning to dawn on people,” Biden added.
Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other top Democrats have argued the president’s consistently low poll numbers are largely the result of Americans not knowing enough about him and his record, and that they have to do more to break through.
Not next Sunday, though.
“We hope viewers enjoy watching what they tuned in for — the game,” White House communications director Ben LaBolt told CNN.
Biden did sit for a Super Bowl interview shortly after taking office in 2021, and the campaign didn’t start this season viewing football as sacrosanct time. A Biden ad touting his success at improving the economy was placed on local stations and national cable during the season opener between the Chiefs and Detroit Lions in September, and more were run for the Lions-Green Bay Packers game on Thanksgiving. The campaign argued at the time that it was a chance to appeal to big audiences in those two swing states.
In past years, the Super Bowl presidential interviews often drove news coverage for days. But the Biden White House has always been skeptical of the value of doing so, in part due to anxiety that a flub could become an unwanted distraction. Biden’s last major interview was on comedian Conan O’Brien’s podcast, recorded at the White House in December.
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