Eric Thayer/Getty Images
Ron Paul is overcome with emotion as he easily captures our March Madness pool!
Forget University of North Carolina and Michigan State.
The real drama, excitement, emotion and tension came in our first annual March Madness pool — to determine (yeah right) the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.
And today, just hours after the NCAA tourney, we announce OUR winner, as voted by you. And it's Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
Paul defeated Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina in the finals by 13 points, 56-43 percent, with 963,719 total votes cast.
The names of 32 prospective (and yes, some unlikely) candidates were in the brackets when we began this madness on March 19. There were eight governors: Sarah Palin of Alaska, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Jon Huntsman of Utah, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Charlie Crist of Florida, and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
There were three former governors: Florida's Jeb Bush, Arkansas' Mike Huckabee and Massachusetts' Mitt Romney.
Six were current members of the U.S. Senate, including DeMint: Jon Kyl of Arizona, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Jon Ensign of Nevada and John Thune of South Dakota.
There was one former senator: Nebraska's Chuck Hagel.
Six were current members of the House, including Paul: Jeff Flake (AZ), Mike Pence (IN), Paul Ryan (WI), Eric Cantor (VA) and John Shadegg (AZ).
And rounding out the 32 were RNC chair Michael Steele, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, ex-Rep. Tom Tancredo, activist/Jeb son George P. Bush, former eBay exec Meg Whitman, ex-NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, and conservative commentator Alan Keyes.
Millions (literally!) of votes were cast. Hundreds of comments were sent in. Some of them, I should add, were not that civil.
Part of it is because of my picks. My brackets showed not necessarily whom I would have voted for — that is of nobody's concern — but how I saw it playing out if GOP voters around the country actually had these choices in the primaries and caucuses. My Final Four were Romney, Sanford, Ryan and Huckabee. I had Romney beating Sanford and Huckabee toppling Ryan, and for the championship (oops, the nomination) I had Romney over Huckabee.
You wouldn't believe the kind of emails I got for that. Or maybe you would.
But that's not the point. This was about how YOU voted. And, judging from the response and the emotions it caused, it was a success. People paid attention to it.
Congratulations to Congressman Paul. And whatever this means, or doesn't, regarding 2012, it does prove one thing — that his supporters are committed and passionate.