Is Bush smarter than a fourth-grader?

Notes from the political sidelines.
May 17 2007 3:58 PM

Is Bush Smarter Than a Fourth-Grader?

Maybe he's failing on purpose, to help our young people make gains in civics and history.

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Brackets: The Florida Senate was planning to move the state's presidential primary from the second week of March to the first Tuesday in February – Super Tuesday – joining California and other states afraid that by the time their residents vote, the race will already be over. But last week, the Florida House voted to move the primary to the last Tuesday in January. The reason: so many primaries are moving to Super Tuesday, even a big state like Florida might not make a splash.

Now other Super Tuesday states feel betrayed by Florida's defection, and may jump ahead as well. New Hampshire officials, angry that caucus goers now get to go first in Nevada as well as Iowa, have threatened to jump ahead of everyone else. When the Democratic National Committee set out to "fix" the calendar, it offered states bonus delegates to hold their primaries in late spring. Instead, if this game of leapfrog continues, primary votes and caucus goers may pick the nominees by New Years.

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For now, the jockeying among big states suggests that if Iowa and New Hampshire haven't already determined the winner, Florida and California may be the 1-2 punch that does. In an eerie coincidence, that's exactly what will decide the winner of the GOP's NCAA pool. Going into last weekend, Rudy Giuliani led John McCain by nearly 3-1. But victories by UCLA and Georgetown vaulted McCain back into contention, and he now trails Giuliani by just 860 to 840 – 65.8% to 60.2%. The race for Republican bragging rights could come down to tonight's semifinal between UCLA and Florida. McCain has UCLA to win the title, so if the Bruins make the final, he'll pass Giuliani once and for all.

When the tourney started, we took McCain to task for brackets that seemed hopelessly conservative. His picks turned out better than history would suggest – guessing right on seven of his Elite Eight. As the Washington Post noted this morning, this year's tourney had the fewest upsets since seeding of 64 began in 1985. Last year saw 11 upsets; this year, only three.

But by rewriting McCain's brackets to make him pick all the second seeds, Slate kept alive his chance to win it all. Without Slate's intervention, McCain would be done scoring by now, saddled with North Carolina and Kansas in Monday's championship game. Instead, a win tonight by No. 2 UCLA or No. 2 Georgetown will hand McCain the crown. The only way to avoid the curse of the frontrunner is to bet on the underdog now and then. ... 9:59 A.M. (link)

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Thursday, Mar. 22, 2007

Sweet and Sour 16: If you got knocked out of the running in your office pool last weekend because you picked a few upsets, now you know what 2008 will be like for most presidential candidates. March Madness lasts three weeks and will be over the first Monday in April. In the 2008 presidential primaries, January Madness will last three weeks and be over the first Tuesday in February.

Like everything else in life, the presidential race is just another set of brackets. But before you start betting your fortune on political futures, you might want to check how well long shots are faring against the odds.

Last week, I filled out NCAA brackets for the Republican candidates, based on the particular strategies they've chosen for their campaigns. What does this have to do with their actual prospects? Nothing! But then, neither does most coverage of the presidential race you'll be forced to read this year. Even so, one weekend of basketball proved what all those dark horses will spend the next nine months traipsing through Iowa to learn: If you're one of the bottom seeds when the tournament begins, you probably won't still be around when it ends.

So far, this year's NCAA tourney has been a front-runner's paradise. If you picked the favorite to win every game, you're in the upper quarter of the millions who've entered the NCAA pool at ESPN.com. If you picked every underdog, you can stop checking—your Cinderella run is over.

Long shots Duncan Hunter and Ron Paul went against the grain on every pick and had all four No. 16 seeds reaching the Final Four. They guessed just five of the first 32 games correctly, and even those 5 upset winners lost in the next round. Out of a possible 1680 points, their bracket will end up with just 50. If ESPN had a leaderboard for losers, Hunter and Paul would be virtually guaranteed to finish with the worst bracket in the country.

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