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March Madness: Senatorial edition

Pegged to the start of the NCAA basketball tournament, the NBC Political Unit has launched “Senate Madness” – our online contest pitting history’s most consequential U.S. senators against one another. To assemble our list of 64-plus senators, we reached out to historians, as well as fellow political observers and analysts.

The exercise isn’t based on popularity; rather, it’s based on consequence. These are the senators who shaped U.S. history, whose names are affixed to important legislation and Senate buildings, and whose influence and legacy lives on. Some of these names were on the wrong side of history on major issues facing the country. After all, just as American history is complicated, so too is the history of the U.S. Senate. Note: Current senators aren’t eligible to make our list.

The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd and NBC's Domenico Montanaro talk about the NBC First Read Senate March Madness.

The interactive contest works just like an NCAA tournament bracket. Over the next few weeks, you get to vote on each match up between individual senators, and the winners advance. Our brackets are divided into different eras: 19th Century, 20th Century, Modern Day (relatively), and All of the Above (a grab-bag from different eras).

Here are the results of Thursday’s contests:  In the 19th Century bracket, Charles Sumner and James Buchanan advanced while in the 20th Century bracket, John Stennis upset Barry Goldwater, and Mike Mansfield beat Claude Pepper.  In the Modern Era, Jesse Helms and Joe Biden moved on and in the Mixed Era, Scoop Jackson and William Borah advanced.

The first round has concluded and the second round begins next Monday with some intriguing match ups: #5 Sam Houston vs. #4 Stephen Douglas (19th Century); #10 William Fulbright vs. #2 Everett Dirksen (20th Century); #1 Ted Kennedy vs. #8 Robert Byrd and Joe Biden #11 vs. #3 Jesse Helms (Modern Era); and #7 Arthur Vandenberg vs. #2 Henry Cabot Lodge (Mixed Era)


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