The Politics Of March Madness
By MICHAEL FALCONE
- 2016ERS JOIN NCAA POOL @ ESPN.COM ! SEE THEIR BRACKETS LIVE BEFORE TIPOFF: They might or might not be running for president, but they definitely want to win our bracket pool: The likes of Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Martin O'Malley, and about a dozen others have submitted NCAA brackets to a joint ABC/ESPN pool, just for potential 2016 presidential candidates. Brackets will go live at ESPN.com before tipoff today. It works just like everyone else's ESPN bracket pool-except no one's sending $10 through PayPal, the voters can track who's winning, and the stakes could be presidential. SEE OUR STORY AT ABCNEWS.COM , AND LIVE PICKS AT ESPN.COM , BEFORE THE FIRST GAMES BEGIN.
- THE EVOLUTION OF OBAMA'S BRACKET PICKS: President Obama's NCAA bracket is out - and he has sided with most sports analysts in predicting Kentucky, the top-ranked team in the country, to run the table for a perfect season and an NCAA title. As is his annual custom, the president spent a portion of his afternoon on Tuesday with ESPN's Andy Katz, filling out a March Madness tournament bracket at the White House. The NCAA tournament is an unpredictable thing, and even the president is subject to its vagaries, ABC's CHRIS GOOD notes. Despite is widely recognized knowledge of the game, Obama has enjoyed (or not enjoyed) varying success since his first presidential bracket in 2009. http://abcn.ws/1BxYVi3
- KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR ON KENTUCKY'S CHALLENGE TO 'LIVE UP TO THE HYPE': What do the NCAA March Madness tournament and presidential politics have in common? In describing the field of competitors heading into the tournament, basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar described the field in political terms - picking Wisconsin and Kentucky as the frontrunners while leaving room for dark horses to emerge. "I see Kentucky and Wisconsin really being the two strong choices," the former NBA player told ABC's RICK KLEIN and ESPN's Andy Katz in an interview on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. http://abcn.ws/1Ew2SIs
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: It feels like a very long time since we were speculating whether Mitt Romney would make a third run for the White House, but it's been only about six weeks since that will he-won't he debate. Today, we heard from Romney and his wife Ann for the first time since deciding not to take the plunge, with the former Massachusetts governor telling Yahoo's Katie Couric, "It just didn't feel right…Somehow, it just didn't feel like this was the right time for us to step forward." Romney added: "I would love to be president. I just concluded I was not the best person to carry forward the Republican torch." And with what sounded like a bit of regret he said if he had run he would have reached out to more minority groups, including Hispanic voters. "That's something I wish I would've spent a lot more time doing" in 2012, he said. Don't expect Romney to endorse this time around, though. He praised many of the 2016 hopefuls including Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Rand Paul, but said he will stay out of the primary fight: http://yhoo.it/1H5soIc
with ABC's VERONICA STRACQUALURSI
AARON SCHOCK'S DAD SPEAKS OUT: 'HE WILL BE SUCCESSFUL IF HE'S NOT IN JAIL.' Rep. Aaron Schock's congressional ethics troubles may be over once his resignation takes effect, but questions surrounding the Illinois Republican's actions may eventually result in jail time, a possibility even his family has begun to realize. Schock's father, Richard, told ABC station WLS in Chicago that his son's freedom "all depends on what the Department of Justice wants to do." "Ten years from now, whatever he's doing, he will be successful at. I promise you that," Richard Schock said in an interview outside his home Wednesday. "Two years from now he will be successful if he's not in jail." A law enforcement source said that while the FBI has not launched an investigation into Schock's actions, the matter is something authorities are "monitoring." His father believes the four-term lawmaker, 33, has been unfairly targeted. Schock has not turned up since word of his pending resignation, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports. So where in the world is he? Associates close to the Illinois Republican suggest he is unlikely to wait out the storm in Washington or from his district in Illinois "He got a little careless," he said. "Some things maybe he thought didn't apply to him. I don't know. I don't know what all went through his mind." http://abcn.ws/18IYH0J
REPUBLICANS PUT LORETTA LYNCH NOMINATION 'IN THE BACK OF THE BUS,' TOP SENATE DEMOCRAT SAYS. Sen. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, accused Senate Republicans Wednesday of placing Loretta Lynch's nomination to be Attorney General "in the back of the bus." "Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman nominated to be attorney general, is asked to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar," Durbin, of Illinois, said on the Senate floor yesterday morning, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. "That is unfair. It is unjust. It is beneath the decorum and dignity of the United States Senate. This woman deserves fairness." Durbin called Lynch's nomination a "civil rights milestone." President Obama nominated Lynch in November to lead the Department of Justice, but her confirmation has stalled in the Senate. Democrats have pointed out her confirmation process is the longest of any attorney general in recent history. http://abcn.ws/1DAKlNr
IOWA LAWMAKER READS 'SEX AFTER SIXTY' DURING DEBATE. Things are getting a little steamy in the Iowa statehouse. During a lengthy debate on public school teachers' collective bargaining rights, Republican state Rep. Ross Paustian decided to slip in a little racy reading. The Des Moines Register caught him apparently unabashed, perusing "Sex After Sixty" in the statehouse chamber. Paustian, 59, told the Des Moines Register the book was passed to him by fellow Rep. Robert Bacon, also a Republican. "We could all use a laugh around here," he said. Paustian isn't the only lawmaker to zone out during the debate, ABC's ERIN DOOLEY notes. http://abcn.ws/1CwRVsK
OBAMA TALKS GOP BUDGET, GITMO. Speaking at the Cleveland City Club yesterday, President Obama slammed House Republicans' budget proposal, saying that they have not changed their policies to match the improving economy. "When we're in a slump, we need tax cuts," Obama said, imitating Republicans. "When the economy's doing well, know what? Let's try some tax cuts." "It's a budget that doesn't just fail middle class economics, it's the opposite of middle class economics!" he continued. He also said their desires to kill Obamacare are motivated only by politics, not by its merits, ABC's ALI WEINBERG notes. "It's working even better than I expected! But it doesn't matter. Evidence be damned. It's still a disaster," he said sarcastically. He also said that if he could advise his first term self to do one thing differently, "I would have closed Guantanamo on the first day."
@BenjaminBell: Mitt, when asked by Couric if he'll go shirtless for charity fight says "I expect so" and "I presume so" http://news.yahoo.com/mitt-romney-exclusive-interview-with-katie-couric-092359394.html … @jonward11
@evanasmith: The only R candidate for president in 2016 who follows @barackobama on @twitter is @senrandpaul http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/graphics/2015-who-republican-candidates-follow/ …
@katie_glueck: This is a very well-done profile of Heidi Cruz if you haven't seen yet, via @mckaycoppins @meganapper http://www.buzzfeed.com/mckaycoppins/the-trials-and-triumphs-of-heidi-cruz#.pk1ggmN1k …
@RickSantorum: If you live near Cincinnati, join me tonight at 6:30 PM ET at the Montgomery Inn. http://www.nehcrc.com/