President Barack Obama says he is a “sucker” for the Tar Heels, but some political observers speculate his choices for the NCAA tournament might be more political.
Obama chose UNC to win this year’s tournament against favorite University of Kentucky. He also picked the Tar Heels in 2009 — the same year they won the tournament.
Of the teams he selected for the Final Four — Ohio State, Missouri, North Carolina and Kentucky — three are considered swing states.
According to Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning organization based in Raleigh, Obama leads Republican presidential candidate and frontrunner Mitt Romney by a three-point margin, 49 to 46, in North Carolina.
UNC journalism professor Ferrel Guillory said Obama has spent a lot of time in North Carolina and wants to gain the state’s 13 electoral votes.
Guillory said the N.C. election will be competitive no matter who receives the Republican nomination.
But Obama’s bracket choices weren’t done specifically for votes, Guillory said.
Obama’s bracket picks, which were televised on ESPN, contribute positively to his image no matter what team he chooses, he said.
“It’s part of building his image and his frame of reference for the American people to think about him,” Guillory said.
Guillory said Obama’s decision would have been more overtly political if he had chosen an unlikely team to win, such as Texas.
UNC Young Democrats President Austin Gilmore said Obama’s decision might not make a huge difference in North Carolina but wouldn’t negatively affect him.
But Gilmore thinks re-election concerns could play into the President’s decision.
“Some part of every public decision is calculated,” he said. “It’s part of the game.”
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