As much as it pains me to say it, the president’s got game — or at least his campaign staffers do. They’re pretty skilled at tapping into the nation’s interests at any given time. Syria is in crisis, Iran is on the brink of you know what, unemployment is at 8.3 percent, the liberty-limiting implementation of Obamacare continues unabated — and, yet, the nation’s mind is on March Madness. Want proof? “NCAA bracket” and “NCAA tournament” are the No. 1 and 2 searches in the USA on Google right now. “Syria,” “Iran,” “unemployment” and “Obamacare” aren’t even in the top 20. (And really, who could blame us? Sports are clean and neat; they produce clear winners and losers. They’re refreshing for that reason.)

So what does the Obama campaign do? Check it out:

With the “Obama Bracket Challenge” on the campaign’s website, supporters can electronically make their picks for the 2012 NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and see how they measure up against Obama.

The president has filled out a March Madness tournament bracket each of the past three years during an interview with ESPN’s Andy Katz.  He’s expected to do so again this year, and his campaign will post his selections online.

To participate, users must provide their full name, email address and ZIP code.  They’re also prompted to make a donation to the campaign after submitting their picks.

The campaign also promises to list the names of all the people who do better than the president on its website. This works for a few reasons:

  1. The president is known to be an ardent basketball fan. He’s taking British prime minister David Cameron to a first-round game in Dayton, Ohio, tomorrow. He was one of the first prominent figures to catch Linsanity. He once busted his lip in a pickup game. So, this feels organic.
  2. At the same time, it’s still a campaign gimmick and the campaign is open about that. The prompt to donate makes it clear that the president wants to connect with voters on basketball so they’ll connect with him on Election Day.
  3. March Madness is highly mainstream and very nonpartisan. This gives him a chance to reach relatively apolitical people who’ll think it’s cool to compete with the president.

As Derek Hunter laments in a recent Townhall.com column, the conservative movement could do more of this type of thing. We tend to operate in echo chambers. A mainstream presence — even if we have to purchase it in the form of advertising time during primetime entertainment television — would do wonders to advance our message.