On Wednesday, President Obama unveiled his NCAA tournament bracket picks. For the fourth consecutive year he has made as much fanfare about his picks as humanly possible, which for a brief moment of time allows him to get prime campaign coverage on not only ESPN but also most major networks covering college basketball’s March Madness.
What is most interesting about Obama’s bracket-ology is how three of his Final Four selections — the University of North Carolina, the University of Missouri and, most importantly, The Ohio State University — are from battleground states. North Carolina, Missouri and Ohio are all currently undecided or barely tipping Republican. His fourth Final Four pick is the University of Kentucky.
It might be a mere coincidence, as all four picks are relatively safe selections, but the political calculation of his picks cannot be discounted entirely. Obama’s campaign website is sponsoring a challenge where visitors can “take the Obama Bracket Challenge” and compare their selections to the president’s picks. This is especially clever, since comparing your bracket against the president’s requires your name, email address and zip code. The site allows you to share the challenge with your social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. In an election where organization, ground game and fundraising are more important than ever to both sides, Obama looks to be milking every opportunity available.
Sadly, Mitt Romney has decided to not make an NCAA tournament bracket. On Tuesday, Romney said that he was “not plugged in well enough this year to do that.” March Madness is now practically an American holiday, and not participating is a sure way to appear disconnected to voters. Obama has seized the easy opportunity to not only connect with voters but to mine data for his re-election campaign. Next time, Republicans would be wise to “play” along with the American people.
Obama has one thing right, Ohio State is going to the Final Four. But he is wrong about them not winning the tournament. Go Buckeyes!
Thomas Grier is a third-year law student at The Ohio State University. A graduate of Arizona State University, Grier writes on constitutional law, politics and pro-growth policy.