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Debates vs. the NFL

January 4, 2008 | 10:39 pm

Manchester, N.H. -- First, the presidential campaign intruded on the buildup to Christmas. Then, after the briefest of breaks (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), it was back to business for the political industry (the New Year merited only the briefest of nods; after all, the Iowa caucuses loomed).

Now, on Saturday, the campaign calendar no one in their right mind would have devised but which no one proved able to stop results in another unfortunate juxaposition. Crucial debates that potentially could heavily influence Tuesday's New Hampshire primary collide with the start of the NFL playoff season.

At 4 p.m. (PST), ABC will broadcast a 90-minute faceoff among the Republican presidential hopefuls at Saint Anselm College here in Manchester. About that time, the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins (a team with a not insubstantial following in the political world) should be entering its fourth quarter on NBC.

After Republicans vacate the stage, the Democratic White House contenders will replace them; their 90-minute rhetorical duel starts about 5:45 p.m. (PST). At that point, the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers -- also on NBC -- should just be getting interesting (it begins at 5 p.m.).

It's a pretty sure bet which network the vast, vast majority of Americans will be tuned to. But what about viewership in New Hampshire?

Well, it could be worst for candidates hoping for a large and receptive audience of likely primary voters -- the region's beloved (and undefeated) New England Patriots aren't on the schedule. But it also could be better, at least for the Democrats -- astute Patriot fans know that the winner of the Jacksonville/Pittsburgh game will be their team's likely foe in the next playoff round, so many will want to get a fix on what to expect.

-- Don Frederick

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