Obama’s Bracket: The Politics of Nope

By Ed O'Keefe

Mar 20, 2008 4:16pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein, Karen Travers, and David Schoetz Report: In a truly historic development in disclosure from a presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has released his NCAA Tournament bracket.

It is, in short, neither audacious nor hopeful. To Cinderella, it says, "No, we can’t."

To view Obama’s bracket click here.

For a man who purports to know his basketball, it is surprisingly free of unconventional picks. And he may have handed Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., a potent electability argument: Can America trust a man who, when he picks up that phone at 3 am, does not select a single 5-12 upset?

Bottom line: This is the bracket of a cautious politician who is not immune to political pandering.

First, the early rounds. Obama chooses a total of five first-round upsets, out of 32 games, with the boldest choice being No. 13 Winthrop advancing over over No. 4 Washington State (clearly thanking the voters of South Carolina, who launched his campaign into the stratosphere).

But then he has none of his low seeds advancing another round; in fact, he’s predicting only one upset in the entire 16 games of the second round. Does that say, "Yes, we can?"

He even eschews a trendy choice by taking No. 3 Wisconsin over No. 6 University of Southern California in the Midwest region. (By the way, Obama carried Wisconsin and was beat soundly in California — sensing a trend?)

Then there’s his Final Four: Kansas, UCLA, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh. That’s three No. 1′s and one No. 4.

The Jayhawks? His mom was born in Kansas — easy call.

Pittsburgh — come on, Pittsburgh? Is anyone paying attention to the Pennsylvania primary? He has the Panthers beating Stanford to get to San Antonio — thanks again for nothing, California.

He breaks his no-California rule by choosing UCLA, but who doesn’t have UCLA going to the Final Four?

And to win it all, he picks the University of North Carolina. North Carolina, you may recall, votes on May 6, and while taking the Tar Heels may be writing off the Duke vote, that’s the effete liberal cohort that’s already in his camp. (And loyalty has its limits: Obama’s body man, Reggie Love, won a national championship with Duke in 2001, but this is not as bad as Rudy Giuliani rooting for the Red Sox.)

Politics trumps all: UNC fans are clearly the white working-class favorite — Obama’s demographic challenge.

This is not a bracket we believe in.

UPDATE: Politico’s Ben Smith e-mails to point out that choosing Pittsburgh was a flip-flop: Obama told a North Carolina radio station Thursday morning that he would be choosing Stanford OVER Pittsburgh to get to the Final Four. So he was against Pittsburgh before he was for it?

Rick Klein, ABCNews.com’s senior political reporter, writes The Note every morning exclusively for ABCNews.com

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