March Madness puts McConnell in between Kentucky, Louisville

The showdown between basketball powerhouse Kentucky and underdog Louisville in the NCAA’s Final Four has put Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in a tough spot.

McConnell, the senior senator from Kentucky who is up for reelection in 2014, pays close attention to currents at home, and knows Kentucky fans outnumber Louisville fans by a large margin.

ADVERTISEMENT
McConnell went to the University of Louisville as an undergraduate, and a source close to the leader says he is a bigger fan of the Louisville Cardinals than the Kentucky Wildcats. But he thinks Kentucky is more likely to win the game.

To be safe, he’s not taking a side publicly before the tip-off, scheduled for just after 6 p.m. on Saturday.

He praised both teams during a recent Senate floor speech, taking pains to mention each school in equal measure.

“I am actually an alumnus of both schools. I attended the University of Louisville as an undergraduate, and I went to law school at the University of Kentucky,” he said. “I don't know who will win Saturday's game, but whoever the winner is will go on to defeat either Kansas or Ohio State and bring the national championship back home to Kentucky where it belongs.”

But he noted that allegiances divide strictly at home.

“From birth, it seems, Kentuckians are raised to root for one of these two teams; you either wear red for the Louisville Cardinals or blue for the Kentucky Wildcats,” he said.

McConnell may have tipped his hand earlier this month when he wore a tie with Louisville’s colors to a special press conference on healthcare reform.

Though he might be a quiet Louisville partisan, McConnell seems amazed the team got to the Final Four. He gives full credit to Rick Pitino, the Cardinals’ coach.

“Pitino is coach of the year. Not a single one of his starters made the first-, second-, or third-team All Big East, not a one. Not a bad showing so far with not a whole lot of talent,” McConnell.

Still, McConnell predicted Kentucky would win the tournament.

“I still think Kentucky is going to win it,” he said.

More in Senate

Mitch McConnell already running the show for the GOP

Read more »