When Americans once more break out the beers and crowd around their TVs for next weekend’s Super Bowl, many of them will be more excited about what’s going on in the stands than anything happening on the field.
For if the girlfriend of Kansas City Chiefs player Travis Kelce turns out to cheer him on against the San Francisco 49ers in American Football’s annual championship, there may be some viewers who grind their teeth with fury.
The woman in question is Taylor Swift — and there’s a rumour going round that she’ll be there for a far more subtle purpose than to watch football.
According to feverish online speculation among pro-Trump conspiracy theorists, her appearance will be the crowning moment in a plot to drum up support for Joe Biden in this year’s presidential election.
This has involved not only rigging the Super Bowl to ensure the Chiefs went all the way to the final but fabricating Swift’s six-month romance with Kelce. All to ensure that, as a prelude to her endorsing Biden as she did in 2020, the couple can take centre stage next Sunday night during coverage of a game that was last year watched by a record 115 million viewers.
If that all sounds like the product of an alarmingly over-active imagination, it should be noted that even presidential candidates have been spreading it.
Multi-millionaire entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who pulled out of the Republican nomination battle last month, tweeted knowingly this week about the Super Bowl: ‘I wonder if there’s a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped-up couple this fall [autumn]. Just some wild speculation over here, let’s see how it ages over the next eight months.’
Even Donald Trump is said to be complaining privately about the 34-year-old’s potential influence, while his inner circle plans to declare what one called a ‘holy war’ on her.
This, in turn, has prompted claims that Trump risks stirring up a hornet’s nest of outraged Swifties — as her devoted fans are known — who in November will make sure they turn out en masse to vote Democrat.
It’s tempting to dismiss the idea of the woman behind Shake It Off, Bad Blood and Look What You Made Me Do holding the key to the presidential election as definitive evidence that U.S. politics has lost the plot.
However, while the Super Bowl conspiracy theory certainly sounds difficult to credit — as does another outlandish claim recently raised on Fox News that she’s a secret Pentagon agent engaging in psychological warfare — Republicans have good reason to fret about the part that Swift may play.
They know that Democrat number crunchers believe gaining her support may be crucial to winning the election for an ageing incumbent president whose approval ratings are dismally low with young voters — the demographic most difficult to lure to the polling stations at the best of times.
As a young woman, it’s thought that Swift could prove particularly effective in rousing her mainly female fans over the threat they feel another Trump victory would pose to abortion rights.
A new Quinnipiac University poll out this week revealed that Biden has been defying recent trends and taking the lead over Trump.
Aides to the 81-year-old president are drawing up a list of celebrities and ex-politicians who will throw their support behind Biden. Having Taylor Swift on board has been described as ‘the endorsement of their wildest dreams’.
She has a staggering 279 million followers on Instagram and when, last year, she posted a single message on the social media platform urging people to vote, it produced 35,000 new voters in a few hours. A survey conducted by UK pollsters Redfield & Wilton published two weeks ago shockingly revealed that 18 per cent of U.S. voters say they’re ‘more likely’ or ‘significantly more likely’ to vote for a presidential candidate endorsed by Swift.
Eight million new Generation Z voters (born between the mid-1990s and mid-2010s) will be able to vote for the first time this year and many would have gone through their teens listening to Taylor Swift.
Some may find the poll’s findings quite depressing but others weren’t surprised. ‘She’s influenced popular culture, sports, the economics of entire regions of the U.S.,’ said communications consultant James Haggerty. ‘So why not politics and elections?’
The singer backed Biden in 2020 and his campaign is so focused on winning her support once again that, in an advert for a social media job on the team, applicants were urged not to outline their Taylor Swift strategy — as they already had enough suggestions.
One idea that the team has reportedly been considering is for Mr Biden (who has proved he can be a bit wobbly on stage) to go to one of the stops on Swift’s wildly successful Eras Tour, the first by any artist to rake in more than $1 billion.
Most showbusiness stars cannot wait to show off their liberal credentials but Swift spent years resolutely refusing calls for her to make any overt political statement. In fact, her first intervention didn’t come until the 2018 midterm elections when she endorsed two Democratic candidates in Tennessee.
In an emotional video, she was seen arguing with her father, Scott. He had urged her to stay out of politics fearing that it would imperil her safety by making her a target of extremists, but she told him she finally felt she had to speak up — citing incumbent Republican senator Marsha Blackburn’s decision to vote against ‘fair pay for women’ and her support for ‘homophobic positions’.
She told her father: ‘I need to be on the right side of history, and if [Democrat challenger Phil Bredesen] doesn’t win, then at least I tried.’ He told her: ‘I’m the guy that went out and bought armoured cars.’
Whether bulletproof limos will protect her from the Trump campaign’s ‘holy war’ remains unclear. A campaign source told Rolling Stone magazine the war will probably take the form of stoking the ‘culture-war fires’ and portraying Swift as just ‘another Left- wing celebrity who is part of the Democrat elite telling you what to think’.
Trump has already expressed his displeasure at her Democrat leanings, saying after her intervention in the midterms: ‘I like Taylor’s music about 25 per cent less now.’
He must dislike it even more now given that she rounded on him in the 2020 election for meddling with the U.S. Postal Service’s handling of voting by mail, thereby putting pressure on people to risk catching the coronavirus by leaving the house to vote.
Insiders say Trump has been claiming that he’s ‘more popular’ than her and has more loyal fans. Deftly borrowing the title of a Swift song, senior Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller said: ‘Joe Biden might be counting on Taylor Swift to save him, but voters are looking at these sky-high inflation rates and saying, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’.
Meanwhile, some of the attacks on Swift have been off-the-scale barmy. Republican Georgia politician Kandiss Taylor wrote that she ‘tried to warn y’all back in October that the influence of [Taylor Swift] on our youth with witchcraft was demonic, evil, and Luciferian.
‘Of course, Satan wants to use her now to elect Joe back into the White House to destroy what’s left of America.’
On conservative cable news station Newsmax, presenter Greg Kelly complained of ‘idolatry’ toward the performer from her fans, saying: ‘If you look it up in the Bible, it’s a sin.’
Many believe that those on the Right feel a sense of betrayal from Taylor. She grew up on a Christmas-tree farm in a white and mainly Republican part of Pennsylvania, and first became famous in country music, which has long had a conservative reputation.
Her squeaky clean ‘America’s Sweetheart’ image and refusal for years to express political views encouraged many to believe her silence was because she was a closet Republican in the relentlessly pro-Democrat showbusiness world.
Indeed, Swift was so determinedly uncontroversial that she struck many as just a little bit bland. As Democrats try to stir her