"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”

Pericles



Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Madness for Political Junkies

Besides revealing how cool he is, President Obama’s public release of his NCAA “Baracket” selections on ESPN yesterday got me to thinking. How many of the teams reside in Democratic House districts? How many are located in districts that voted for Obama? The sportscasters can debate the primacy of the Big East (did they really deserve three Number One seeds) over the ACC and the down years for the SEC, Pac 10 and Big Ten. That ground has been covered.

If we look at the bracket through the lens of the Red/Blue divide that permeates our political discussions (I know, I know, this isn’t the post partisan change Obama promised, but just let me have my fun here, OK?) how does the tournament stack up? And, did the president calculate the political ramifications in making his selections?

First, a few observations about the President’s Baracket. Despite the punditocracy’s growing chorus about the president’s aggressive agenda, the president’s bracket is extremely conservative. Pragmatically embracing the status quo, the Commander-in-Chief has four top seeds (UNC, Pitt & Louisville) and one # 2 (Memphis) reaching the Final Four in Detroit. In fact, he’s only got the lower seed winning NINE games (out of 63!) in the entire tournament. In the first round, he’s got two # 11s (Temple and VCU) and a #10 (Maryland) knocking off higher seeds along two #9s (Butler & Tennessee) emerging with victories over #8s. He's got an entire Region (the Midwest) playing to form with every game won by the top seed. There is no Cinderella in his bracket.

Forty-four of the sixty-five teams are represented by Democrats in the House. Regionally, the partisan breakdown looks like this:













Midwest WEST
SchoolCDParty'08SchoolCDParty'08
1LouisvilleKY-03DObama1ConnecticutCT-02DObama
16Alabama StAL-02DMcCain16ChattanoogaTN-03RMcCain
Morehead StKY-05RMcCain
8Ohio StOH-15DObama8BYUUT-03RMcCain
9SienaNY-21DObama9Texas A&MTX-17DMcCain
5UtahUT-02DMcCain5PurdueIN-04RMcCain
12ArizonaAZ-07
D
Obama12
N. Iowa
IA-01DObama
4Wake Forest
NC-12
DObama
4
WashingtonWA-07
D
Obama
13
Cleveland St
OH-11D
Obama
13Mississippi St
MS-03
RMcCain
6West VirginiaWV-01
D
McCain6MarquetteWI-04DObama
11
Dayton
OH-03RMcCain11
Utah St
UT-01RMcCain
3KansasKS-03D
Obama
3MissouriMO-09RMcCain
14N. Dakota StND-ALDMcCain14CornellNY-22D
Obama

7Boston CollegeMA-04DObama7
California
CA-09D
Obama
10USC
CA-33
DObama
10
MarylandMD-05
D
Obama
2
Michigan St
MI-08R
Obama
2Memphis
TN-09
DObama
15Robert MorrisPA-18
R
McCain15
Cal St- Northridge
CA-27D
Obama
EAST SOUTH
SeedSchoolCDParty'08SeedSchoolCDParty'08
1
Pittsburgh

PA-14

D

Obama

1

North Carolina

NC-04

D

Obama
16
E. Tennessee St

TN-01

R

McCain

16

Radford

VA-09

D

McCain
8
Oklahoma St

OK-03

R

McCain

8

LSU

LA-06

R

McCain
9
Tennessee

TN-02

R

McCain

9

Butler

IN-07

D

Obama

5
Florida St

FL-02

D

McCain

5

Illinois

IL-15

R

McCain

12
Wisconsin

WI-02

D

Obama

12

W. Kentucky

KY-02

R

McCain
4
Xavier

OH-01

D

Obama

4

Gonzaga

WA-05

R

McCain
13
Portland St

OR-03

D

Obama

13

Akron

OH-13

D

Obama
6
UCLA

CA-30

D

Obama

6

Arizona St

AZ-05

D

McCain
11
VCU

VA-03

D

Obama

11

Temple

PA-02

D

Obama
3
Villanova

PA-07

D

Obama

3

Syracuse

NY-25

D

Obama

14
American

DC-AL

D

Obama

14

Stephen F. Austin

TX-01

R

McCain
7
Texas

TX-21

R

McCain

7

Clemson

SC-03

R

McCain
10
Minnesota

MN-05

D

Obama

10

Michigan

MI-15

D

Obama
2
Duke

NC-04

D

Obama

2

Oklahoma

OK-04

R

McCain
15
Binghamton

NY-22

D

Obama

15

Morgan St

MD-07

D

Obama










MidwestWestEastSouth
House4 R6 R4 R7 R
13 D10D12 D9 D
08 Result7 McCain7 McCain5 McCain9 McCain

10 Obama

9 Obama
11 Obama7 Obama


Tournament Total
House Delegation: 21 R 44 D
2008 Results: 28 McCain 37 Obama


The East (Boston) and Midwest (Indianapolis) are the bluest regions with the South (Memphis) the reddest. The Midwest Region has the most “purple” districts, purple being defined as a district that gave its vote to a house candidate that was from the opposite party of the district’s winning presidential candidate. Of the nine swing districts only one (Michigan State’s 8th) was won by Obama yet held by a Republican.

Obama’s 44 schools represents 67% of the field, far outpacing the 53% of the popular vote he won in November and exceeding the 59% of House districts the Democrats currently control. This might reflect the presence if many urban schools in this year’s tournament. Or, it could it be validation that America’s colleges and universities are brainwashing our nation’s youth with liberal ideology? I prefer to think it merely represents Beck’s Epic Failure to surround us.

Its clear Obama isn’t picking based on a state’s battleground status, as he’s most often taking the ‘safer’ choice by selecting the higher seed. Wonder if he’ll venture to make his bracket public during the 2012 tournament when he’s gearing up for reelection? As Obama’s picks move into later rounds, his Blue to Red ratio remains constant until the Elite Eight, when only Michigan State remains from a Republican-held district. But, keep in mind, Obama did win this district last fall.

Among the Democrats, the Blue Dogs find themselves outflanked by the Progressive Caucus. Three Blue Dogs are represented in the tournament (Utah’s Jim Matheson, Kansas’ Dennis Moore and FSU’s Allen Boyd). The Progressive Caucus, on the other hand, has lots of teams in the Big Dance: Arizona, California, UCLA, USC, Butler, BC, Morgan St, Minnesota, Wake Forest, Cornell, Binghamton, Cleveland State, Temple, Memphis, Washington and Wisconsin all play in districts represented by members of the Progressive Caucus.


Other fun Partisan Big Dance factoids:
Only two districts are represented by two teams in this year’s tournament:

  • Tobacco Road’s David Price (NC-08 - Duke and Carolina)
    Upstate New York’s Maurice Hinchey (NY-22 – Cornell and Binghamton)

Thirty-two states (and the District of Columbia) are represented in the field of 65. Seventeen states (AZ, CA, IN, KY, MD, MI, NC, NY, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA and WI) are represented by more than one team. California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee lead the way with four teams each in the tourney. Of these 32 states, Obama won 18 (representing 302 electoral votes- including DC) to McCain’s 13 (127 EVs)

The most populous state without a home team to root for is Georgia. Conversely, the smallest state sending a team this year is North Dakota.

The only state (aside from DC and North Dakota) to have all of its districts represented is Utah.

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for indulging me two of my passions – March Madness and political minutiae. Totally pointless, I know, but a wonderful diversion from economic meltdowns, Wall Street Ponzi schemes and Octo-Mom.

Enjoy the madness!

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