It is March, as you know, which means that media outlets such as ours use interest in the upcoming NCAA college basketball tournament as an excuse to develop imaginary brackets of other important contests. In part, this is because we are not bound by the stupid rules that govern advertisers, so we can refer to the Final Four™ without having to pay money to the NCAA (which, we assume, then gets distributed among the players or something). In fact, we can write Final Four™ without the trademark if we want. Final Four. Final Four. Pretty great.
But, in part, this is also because brackets are fun. People fill out tens of millions of brackets because the single-elimination contest is exciting. It is much more interesting than, say, a series of caucuses and primaries that are of quickly diminishing importance over the course of months and months.
Which brings us to: Your Fix 2016 presidential bracket, which we will present by party.
A necessary disclaimer. This was developed with two goals in mind. First, to offer some commentary on the presidential race. And, second, as a joke. So if your instinct is to contest the placement of your preferred candidate on the grid, know that we are probably not going to change it. But we do encourage you to express your outrage on social media, preferably including a link back to this post. Thanks in advance.
The play-in. Play-in games in the NCAA tournament were invented mostly as a way to keep people who support the 65th and 66th, etc., teams from complaining about being excluded from the bracket. Plus, it allows broadcasters to show more games, which means more advertising revenue. (What kind of sickos would generate unnecessary content simply for the sake of hopefully luring lots of public attention?) Point being: These are teams that will not win and, often, that no one has ever heard of. So in our bracket: It's John Bolton versus Carly Fiorina.
1-versus-play-in. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is leading in a number of polls, so we gave him the top slot. He'd compete against the winner of the Bolton-Fiorina match-up.
(What does this mean? How will they "compete" in our bracket? Using your imagination, that's how. Now be quiet.)
2-versus-15. Jeb Bush takes on Chris Christie. You might think that we're ranking Christie -- a governor who is not terribly popular in his home state, who still governs under a cloud from the bridge thing, and who has been awfully slow to get out of the gate on starting a presidential bid -- fairly low here. You are welcome to think that. We also seeded him against Bush because they are natural opponents in the same general space, and Bush, by most visible measures, is crushing him.
3-versus-14. Rand Paul takes on John Kasich. It's a battle of the Ohio River, which Paul will win in part because Kasich still isn't super likely to actually run.
4-versus-13. Marco Rubio battles Lindsey Graham. This is a very high seeding for Graham, but I think it's fair to consider both him and Rubio as sort-of question marks. Rubio always seems to be poised on the edge of a bubble of support; Graham's heavy rotation on the Sunday shows is a wild card. Should be a good match-up -- which, again, is not actually a real match-up that will happen, sadly.
5-versus-12. Ben Carson versus Rick Santorum. 2016's populist favorite takes on 2012's. Both men are adept at saying things that endear them to the base and enrage the opposition, so this would be fun.
6-versus-11. Mike Huckabee takes on Donald Trump. It's a battle of two of the Republican Party's most freewheeling capitalists!
7-versus-10. Rick Perry versus Mark Everson. (Versus who?) This is the well, I might as well run for president match-up. Why is Everson ranked so high? Because of our scientific calculations is why.
8-versus-9. Ted Cruz battles Sarah Palin. Imagine this debate. Imagine if these two debated, and then Republican primary voters got to vote for either of them immediately afterward. I think we can all agree that this would be 1) great TV and 2) a vast improvement over the current system.
So that's the Republican side. Now for something completely different.
The play-in. Former Virginia senator Jim Webb takes on Vermin Supreme, a perennial candidate who wears a boot as a hat. Should be close.
1-versus-no-one-for-a-while. Hillary Clinton, the No. 1 seed, gets a free pass to the finals. Why? Because you try and find 16 Democrats who are running. Also: Because of polls.
2-versus-no-one. Elizabeth Warren gets the No. 2 seed, even though she has repeatedly said she will not compete. Too bad, Warren. And have fun automatically advancing to round two.
3-versus-no-one. Joe Biden gets a bye, which he's earned simply by virtue of providing us with so much entertainment over the years.
4-versus-no-one. Someone TBD gets a first round bye. Who is this? Who knows. Maybe Al Gore! (It won't be Al Gore.) But we figured it made sense to save a space, just in case.
5-versus-play-in. Martin O'Malley, seeded just below the unnamed mystery person, will match up against the winner of Webb-Supreme. Then he gets to face-off against Elizabeth Warren, who will beat him even though she still isn't playing.
And that's it. Those are the Democrats. Exciting.
Sports fans know that there's another tournament, to which NCAA teams that don't make the original bracket or the Pity Play-in games are relegated. It is called the "NIT," or National Invitation Tournament, and it is to college basketball what Miss USA is to Miss America. It is like the runners-up match in the World Cup: A title you can win and issue a press release about, but no one spends a lot of time bragging on for very long.
Anyway, there were enough Republicans running that we could have a mini-NIT. Like so.
Not even exciting enough for a Final Four.
Final Four Final Four Final Four Final Four Final Four Final Four Final Four Final Four Final Four Final Four Final Four Final Four