The Washington Post

Obama and Cameron hoop it up in Ohio

America’s First Fan was in the front row as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament tipped off Tuesday.

With his Republican rivals taking their shots in a pair of southern presidential primaries, President Obama made a fast break from Washington to Dayton, Ohio, where he took in the first play-in game of the tournament between Western Kentucky and Mississippi Valley State.

Obama brought a buddy, British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had arrived in the nation’s capital hours earlier for a two-day visit. After arriving at Dayton Arena, the president, decked out in a gingham-check button-down and dark slacks, and Cameron, in a navy polo shirt, sat behind a basket and munched on hot dogs with staff and fellow politicians, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R).

“Both teams are shooting terribly. Maybe it’s nerves,” Obama observed at halftime, with Mississippi Valley leading 23-19, after CBS Sports analyst Clark Kellogg asked him to break down the action.

A dedicated pickup game player who sometimes coaches his daughter Sasha’s youth team, Obama sounded like he was making a pitch to replace Kellogg in future broadcasts.

“Some of this is just going to be somebody getting a few open shots outside to open things up,” Obama said matter-of-factly. “It’s real clogged in the middle.”

Cameron, who was watching his first hoops contest, chimed in with a less textured analysis: “It’s fast and furious. It’s hard to follow who has done what wrong. He’s giving me some tips.”

“He’s going to teach me cricket,” Obama replied. Cameron was such a rookie to American sports traditions that he put ketchup, sans yellow mustard, on his hot dog. At least he washed it down with an all-American Coca-Cola.

Of course, Obama’s motive for attending the game wasn’t purely to feed his basketball jones or give his buddy Cameron a ride on Air Force One, the first foreign leader to ride with Obama on the big bird. The president also wanted to make an appearance in a key electoral swing state one week after former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney won Ohio’s GOP primary.

“Sometimes when we have foreign visitors they’re only visiting the coasts. They go to New York, they go to Washington, they go to Los Angeles,” Obama told Kellogg. “But the heartland is what it’s all about.”

Obama then gave a shout out to his law school alma mater, Harvard, which made the NCAA tournament. And Cameron, an equally wily politician, got in his own plug — for the Summer Olympics in London in late July. “Come and see the Olympics and come and stay,” Cameron said.

That gave Obama an opening for a little trash talk.

“Should be a pretty good basketball team showing up,” the president promised, referring to Team USA.

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
Republicans debate tonight. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
He says he could talk about Charleston, which represents a little bit of everything in the state has to offer from evangelicals to libertarians, and where Ted Cruz is raising more money than anywhere else. In a twist, Marco Rubio is drawing strong financial support from more socially conservative Upstate. That said, Donald Trump is bursting all the conventional wisdom in the state. So maybe the better answer to this question is, "Wherever Trump is."
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.