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Obama to watch potential successors debate on TV ‘in the background’

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama will watch his potential successors square off during their first debate Monday night, though even the blockbuster political event isn’t likely to pull him from his after-hours work.

“I anticipate that this fall Monday evening will be similar to other fall Monday evenings in the White House residence, which is that the President will be working tonight with the television on in the background,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said during Monday’s briefing. “The one difference is that instead of Monday Night Football there will be more politics discussed in the context of the debate.”

Obama debated Hillary Clinton two dozen times during their Democratic primary battle in 2007 and 2008, and he’s used that contest as an example of her grit. Last week, the President offered his debate advice to the Democratic nominee, who has spent the last several days preparing for her face-off with Donald Trump.

“Be yourself and explain what motivates you. Because I will tell you, I’ve gotten to know Hillary and seen her work and seen her in tough times and in good times. She’s in this for the right reasons,” Obama told ABC News. “I think there’s a reason why we haven’t had a woman president before, and so she’s having to break down some barriers. There’s a level of mistrust and a caricature of her that just doesn’t jibe with who I know.”

Earnest said Monday he was confident the debate’s moderator, NBC anchor Lester Holt, would “perform well, even under the intense spotlight of a presidential debate.”