NCAA Unites Political Foes... Over Dinner

IMAGE: NCAA GOP vs. Dems

The University of North Carolina Tar Heels did not just deliver an impressive victory or provide President Obama bragging rights around the West Wing of the White House.

The NCAA men's basketball champs are also responsible for setting up what could be one of the more awkward dinner dates in American politics.

It's one from the "careful what you wish for" category. If you are a young opposition researcher in politics, you spend all your waking moments poring over video clips, quotes, and the professional record of the opposing candidate you are attempting to defeat. The oppo researcher is always digging deep into a candidate's background for that potentially embarrassing detail that could derail a candidacy.

So imagine how odd it might be when the research director for the Democratic Party of Virginia, Greg Scanlon, soon dines one-on-one with Bob McDonnell, the Republican candidate for governor.

Why would the former Virginia attorney general subject himself to a meal with a young Democrat who has been researching every nook and cranny of his life and career?

Well, because Scanlon won the NCAA March Madness bracket challenge on McDonnell's campaign Web site. For his prize, Scanlon had his choice of a one-on-one dinner or a three-on-three basketball game with McDonnell and his twin sons.

"As much as I'd like to hit the basketball court with Bob, at the end of the day I'm more of an eater than a baller," Scanlon said.

When asked if it might be awkward for McDonnell to sit across the table and share a meal with the man who spends his days trying to figure out ways to defeat him, the McDonnell campaign spokesman said it wasn't a worry.

"An hour dinner with Bob McDonnell? Greg might walk out a Republican," said McDonnell campaign spokesman Tucker Martin.

As with many political campaigns, the McDonnell for Governor campaign attempted to drum up some Web site traffic and collect potential volunteer and supporter email addresses by holding a NCAA Final Four bracket challenge.

The McDonnell campaign says some 787 people initially signed up for the challenge. Scanlon is a graduate of the University of Virginia and said he chose North Carolina to win the tournament as a bit of ACC pride.

No date has yet been set for the bipartisan date. For the restaurant, Scanlon chose "Max's Positive Vibe Cafe," a Richmond non-profit organization that helps provide hands-on training and employment in food services to individuals with physical and developmental disabilities.

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