Jeb Bush released his NCAA Tournament bracket on Tuesday. Jeb Bush also insists he's not going to pander in order to win the Republican nomination in 2016.
These two things aren't really related, but they can be!
Whenever someone running for president releases his or her bracket, we always look for swing-state teams. President Obama, for example, in his 2012 bracket had a swing-state friendly set of picks, including a Final Four with North Carolina and Ohio State, along with Missouri (which didn't turn out to be a 2012 swing state but had been in 2008). He also had 11 teams from battleground states in the Sweet 16. The picks weren't crazy, but they were somewhat politically convenient.
Which brings us to Bush. Is there any hint of early-primary-state favoritism in his picks?
Turns out, Bush thinks Iowa teams will do pretty well this year. But besides that, not really.
Northern Iowa: He has the No. 5 seed Panthers pulling an on-paper upset of No. 4 seed Louisville in the round of 32, though many people thought Northern Iowa was under-seeded (they were ranked 11th nationally in the final AP poll, versus 17th-ranked Louisville). Plenty of adventurous types also have Northern Iowa beating No. 1 seed Villanova in the Sweet 16, but Bush isn't taking that bait.
Iowa: He's got the No. 7 seed Hawkeyes upsetting No. 2 seed Gonzaga in the round of 32 -- a pretty major upset. This allows him to create an all-Iowa matchup in the Sweet 16 between Iowa and 3rd-seeded Iowa State. He chooses...
Iowa State: Technically, as a No. 3 seed, Iowa State would be an underdog to make the Elite 8. But with their fellow Iowans knocking off Gonzaga in the previous round, this suddenly becomes a non-upset. Deft politics, for sure. He then has the Cyclones falling to Duke in the Elite 8. Which brings us to...
Duke: North Carolina schools generally wouldn't be on this list, but the state is threatening to crash the party with the other early states in 2016. And given this is such a basketball state, that has big implications for politicians' brackets. Bush has Duke making the Final Four which, given they are a No. 1 seed, is about par for the course. He does get points for not pandering (and for good taste) for having the Blue Devils lose to Virginia in the national semifinal.
North Carolina: Bush has the 4th-seeded Tar Heels making the Sweet 16 and losing to No. 1 seed Wisconsin. Again, par for the course.
Davidson: This North Carolina-based school (a No. 10 seed) falls victim to Iowa in the round of 64 in Bush's bracket. Again, there are quite simply too many of these teams in one region (the South) for Bush to pick all of them.
Coastal Carolina: He's got the 16th-seeded Chanticleers (best team name ever, based in South Carolina) losing to Wisconsin in the first round, which is a no-brainer. A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed.
Wofford: Another South Carolina-based underdog, he's got this No. 12 seed losing to No. 5 seed Arkansas in the round of 64. Given No. 12 seeds are known for beating No. 5 seeds more often than you might think -- 36 percent of the time, per The Fix's Philip Bump -- it wasn't out of the question for Bush to pick the Terriers. That said, it would have been his second-biggest upset, behind Iowa-over-Gonzaga.
Sadly, New Hampshire and Nevada don't have any team in the tournament this year. Maybe next time, Dartmouth!