It’s not often that two things I’m fairly well addicted to converge, but this might be it. I love politics – can’t stay away from it no matter how hard I try. This should be fairly well known to those who have been reading PB over the course of the last 2 1/2 years. I also love college basketball. Not quite as evident, but I probably hinted at it. If you’ve read the about page here then you know that I was born in Louisville, Kentucky and grew up just south of there. There are 3 things in my blood and basketball is one of them (add bourbon and horses and you’ve got the 3 legged bluegrass boy stool).
So a friend got me thinking (actually his father-in-law did). What parallels are there between the upcoming basketball March Madness and the increasing March Madness of the Presidential Nomination battle.
I’ll break it down to you on the basketball side first, then wrap up the politics in a bit.
Coming up starting today and culminating in Selection Sunday this weekend is the mecca of college basketball. Something we fans talk about all year long. How good will that guard out of high school be? Will that juco (junior college) kid be able to help the team. Will coach play an up-tempo style or grind it out in the half-court offense? It’s all chatter leading up to the week when many businesses see productivity take a nosedive as worker after worker takes a disappearingly long lunch break. [psst: we’re all at the bar filling out our round one brackets!]
So today starts conference tournament action for many of the big conferences. A great many smaller conferences have played out and some schools have already punched their ticket to “The Big Dance” – the NCAA College Basketball Tournament. You know, March Madness! Where 65 teams get to battle it out over the next few weeks to see who is the best in college basketball for 2008. Some teams have not yet made it in and this is where our parallels start to take shape. In order to figure out who is in and who is out, there is a selection committee that sits in a room together and figures it all out. There is much critera: overall record, record in your conferences, RPI rating, strength of schedule, etc. You simply must either win your conference tournament (automatic bid) or have a good enough resume to compete (at large bid). The art and science of determining which teams get in and at what seeding has become known as bracketology.
Let’s break down the March Madness political resumes to this point. We’ll call it delegatology.
Barack Obama: Overall state record of 29-15, delegate lead of 1611 to 1480, 833,000 popular vote lead (approx.)
Hillary Clinton: Overall state record of 15-29, delegate deficit of 131, popular vote deficit of approx. 833,000, went on 11 state losing streak before winning 2 then dropping 2 more
15-29 is a horrible record and a basketball selection committee would not even be considering this team. This places Team Hillary clearly on the bubble. The bubble are a group of teams that are pretty close to making the field, but just shy. They could be in, but might needs some help in the form of winning more or someone else losing. Take Florida for example this year. They are a decent 21-10 overall, but 8-8 in their conference. They, along with Ohio State are on the bubble. OSU will probably be one of the last 4-5 teams in, while Florida will be out unless they win or come really close to winning their conference tournament. Keep in mind these two teams just last year played for the National Championship! March Madness does not care what you did last year or 35 years ago.
Team Hillary is in the same boat. They almost surely have to “win their conference tournament” by blowing out the other team along the way and win every single game to do it. They’ll whine, just like Florida might (the irony) about how they beat a #13 Vanderbilt in January or won a “big state” in Ohio and Texas (though Texas ended up being a loss after further review). But guess what? Nobody cares about what you did in January – or in Ohio for that matter. What counts is your overall resume and Team Hillary doesn’t have it. Nor do the Florida Gators who will most likely be NIT bound.
Those people gathered in a room on Selection Sunday? Call them superdelegates. They get to decide based upon the data available to them who is fit to make the dance and who is not. Ohio superdelegates need to pay close attention to who is and who isn’t a “bubble team”. The voters seem to know and seem to be pointing you in the right direction.
So Penn, Carville, Williams, Wolfson, and the rest of Team Hillary can whine all they want to, but the facts speak for themselves. If you are on the bubble and your resume isn’t strong enough, you don’t make it to the big dance. That’s just the way it is in March Madness. There is no room for error – and no room for bubble whiners.
Right now if I had to call it I’d say Barack Obama is a lock and a #2 seed. Hillary Clinton is out on the bubble barring an unlikely sweep in conference tournament play. John McCain lucked out and won a really week conference tournament and is in as the #10 seed.
Remember. No whiners!