WASHINGTON D.C. — The Republican Party has finally unveiled their 2016 presidential bracket after weeks of buildup and speculation, and few fans are surprised that hopeful Jeb Bush has claimed the top spot. But the GOP selection committee still managed to pull some surprises, stirring controversy in the process.
“The level of parity in this year’s field was substantial,” selection committee chairman Scott Barnes said. “Bush has been among the best this season, but it’s a dogfight after that.”
For his part, Bush offers a storied history. The former Florida governor’s family has won the GOP bracket four times total, taking the presidency three times.
But other challengers in the tournament won’t be easily brushed aside. The other top seeds—Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul—have all had strong seasons thus far.
Other potential dark horses include No. 2 seeds Chris Christie (governor of New Jersey) and Mike Huckabee (former governor of Arkansas), as well as No. 3 seed Donald Trump.
Upstart candidate Trump, who makes the Big Dance for the first time this year, was vociferously disappointed with his seeding in the tournament. Following the announcement of the bracket pairings, the bombastic businessman and self-promotor said he’s earned a No. 1 seed and that the selection committee snubbed him.
“This is an absolute disgrace. The selection committee is a complete joke,” he said.
Trump added defiantly, “I will personally make a mockery of the seeding by crushing each and every opponent that comes before me. Bring on Petyo, whoever the hell that is. Bring on Walker. Bring on Bush. I’ll destroy them.”
When asked about Trump’s seeding, committee chair Barnes said that while Trump has performed well in the polls, his resume was simply too weak for a higher seed.
Some disappointed competitors were left out of the bracket entirely. Noticeably absent is perennial mid-major powerhouse Ron Paul, but he didn’t help his cause by retiring from Congress in 2013. Rep. Peter King also had a shot at the tournament, but according to Barnes the New York congressman fell out of favor late in the selection process.
Colorado State also had its bubble burst. The Rams were gearing up to make a deep run in the tournament, but instead they’ll be watching from the sidelines. Head coach Larry Eutaschy remarked later that his team was “devastated” not to be in the running for the Republican presidential nomination. The team will look to earn a bid in a third party tournament in the meantime.