ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., may be serious about competing in deep-blue Democratic states. But he clearly used his NCAA picks to repay some loyalties and tend to the conservative base.
McCain’s Elite Eight includes six teams from red states. The sole exceptions? Georgetown (obviously kept alive to honor the alma mater of top aide/season-ticketholder Mark Salter — and so those bridge-to-nowhere-loving lobbyists could be slain by the boys from Kansas on a national stage) and Connecticut (Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., gets a thank-you for his early endorsement, though McCain has the Huskies falling to North Carolina in the finals).
Three No. 1′s in his Final Four — same as Obama — hardly qualifies as the basketball equivalent of straight talk. But how’s this for a maverick streak? McCain picks against perennial fan favorite Butler, having the Bulldogs fall to No. 10 South Alabama in the first round.
More broadly, it’s a bracket that falls somewhere between the prudence of Miss Congeniality and the recklessness of a drunken sailor. (And he gets bonus points for making his picks without the benefit of ESPN; he’s been traveling in the Middle East and Europe since Selection Sunday.)
McCain has No. 14 Georgia beating No. 3 Xavier in round one — a pick that burned him, as Georgia was among the first teams to lose Thursday, but they did give Xavier a scare. And he goes with a home state favorite, No. 10 Arizona, in the first round, but has them bowing out to Duke in the round of 32.
The basic theme: He calls for some early-round upsets, then foresees the superior teams pulling away as the tournament progresses; except for UConn, it’s all 1′s and 2′s in his Elite Eight. He’s hardly challenging conventional wisdom (in Washington or beyond), but he’s trying to show he knows how the world works.
Rick Klein, ABCNews.com’s senior political reporter, writes The Note every morning exclusively for ABCNews.com