On Tuesday, Obama released his picks for the N.C.A.A.'s March Madness college basketball tournament. He's made his picks public for five years now, and to be fair, he's asking for politicizing this year by requiring that visitors to his campaign site give their name and zip code in order to see how their picks match up against the president's. But once again, Obama's made the mistake of being kind of boring. Cue the critics: "His picks are so vanilla they make Mitt Romney look wild," writes Time's Alex Altman. (Probably not true, as Romney declined to even fill out a bracket.) "Final Four is composed entirely of two #1 seeds and two #2′s widely considered better than their quadrant’s top dogs."
Salon's Steve Kornacki has similar issues:
You might expect that the man who wrote “The Audacity of Hope” and whose own four-year rise from the Illinois state legislature to the White House stands as one most impressive political Cinderella stories of all-time would have a little more faith in the underdog, but this is what happens every year
Meanwhile, Senate candidate Tom Leppert has created his own bracket, made up of Obama's "failed policies" so people can vote for the worst Obama policy of all. Excuse us if we're unimpressed with this clever media strategy. For just as dependably as Obama sends obvious teams to the final four, so too does the politicization of his picks feel awfully familiar. Last year in particular, Republicans took Obama to task for appearing on ESPN to give his picks amid Japan's crisis and the growing Arab Spring conflicts, saying he wasn't focused. Hot Air's Allahpundit, for example, described his NCAA picks at the time by writing: "I’ve got Qaddafi in the Libyan regional, radioactive steam over the containment vessels out east, and China over Duke in the final. At the buzzer." That kind of criticism makes Leppert's little "things Obama's done wrong as NCAA bracket" game feel awfully weak.