Beltway Briefing: Agenda for Remaining First 100 Days

Blake RutherfordMark Alderman, and Howard Schweitzer, of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies, discuss the recent developments in politics and policy in Washington, D.C.

Blake: Thank you very much and welcome to our ongoing series discussing the political and policy developments in Washington DC. My name is Blake Rutherford, a member of Cozen O'Connor public strategies and I am joined this week and almost as always by Mark Alderman, the Chairman of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies and Howard Schweitzer the managing partner of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies. Mark, Howard, great to be with you guys on this snowy day in the northeast.

Howard: Thanks Blake.

Blake: I am interested, before we get into what is the hottest topic I think in the country beyond my NCAA tournament bracket which is the Affordable Care Act, I want to take stock for a minute in where we are in this administration and particularly where we are in the way Trump is building his government. I want to preface my questions to both of you this way. I mean one of the things that we have begun to see and is that the Trump administration is interested as a policy matter in contracting the federal workforce.

We're hearing about cuts at federal agencies almost across the board. I want to talk about what that means and how much to read into that. I also want to get your comments about Trump's appointments process because at this stage, we've only seen that the president has made 20 sub-cabinet level appointments. Two of those whom withdrew and he's got more than 1900 vacancies in the administration, most of which don't require Senate confirmation. With that in mind, Howard I want to start with you. What are your impressions of the president's efforts to develop his executive branch staff? How is he doing in that regard do you think?

Howard: Blake it's off to as we keep saying, a very slow start and it's complicating the administration's ability to get things done. What we're hearing as we're out and about around town, on Capitol Hill, talking to Republicans, talking to Democrats but we hear it most certainly from the Republican side of the aisle because they think they're prime to get things done is they don't know who to talk to. There aren't people in place and these guys aren't set up to address some key priorities, some key things [inaudible 00:03:01]. It continues to be slow.

It's not, I think it's being over reported. I think some aspects of the administration getting up and running are being over reported but they need, they need an all hands on deck crisis mentality for staffing the government. This is, it's not acceptable and yeah we're only 50 days in. It takes time but they're encountering problems everywhere you turn and it's got to change.

Blake: You know Mark, you were there and I sort of revert back to this. You were both there on day one of the Obama administration. I'll admit, if you line up the achievements of the Obama administration at this stage versus the achievements of the Trump administration at this stage, they are markedly different. I wonder if in your opinion due to Howard's point, are they hampered by an ability to get things done? Is that a consequence of a poor transition or is there something else at work do you think that is slowing the hiring process.

Mark: I think Blake, it's all of the all above actually. Start at the beginning. They did not expect to win. We all know that. They therefore did not set up a government. We all know that. President Obama did for that matter. President Bush did years before Obama did. They began in a hole and they have violated one of Howard's favorite rules about being in a hole. They just kept digging instead of stopping. Not only did they start in a hole because of no meaningful transition but they then proceeded to have exactly the crisis mentality that Howard's talking about except it was focused on true crises, mostly involving the president's tweets and his first National Security Advisor's conduct and of course this entire Russian interference in the election which is another hole that just keeps getting deeper.

I think that it's going to take a real effort to start staffing up this government and with the distractions that they're facing, I'm just not sure that that is going to happen anytime soon. If you're hoping that they don't get as much as their agenda done as they might otherwise. They are certainly succeeding in shrinking government but they're doing it at the top where they need people to implement their plan.

Howard: It's more than just accomplishing their agenda. There's one political, there's one confirmed appointee at the Defense Department, the Secretary. I think the bigger concern, look you need people in place to deal with real crises, non-self inflicted crises, and it's a concern. Look, I've been there. I've been there trying to staff up a program, a historic program under crisis conditions. It's really hard but I also know that it can be done.

You need a kind of battleship mentality. You need people doing the blocking and tackling of hiring and you need people to make some darn decisions. They need to get their act together because ...

Mark: It begins Howard at the top in the sense that you keep saying and of course you're right. You are the voice of experience on this. You need people to do this and people to do that. The people they need to hire the people are not in place. This is far more than there's only one deputy at Defense. There's nobody in the White House to make this happen.

Reince Priebus is managing the crisis du jour. Steve Bannon is with some considerable success implementing his destruction of the administrative state fantasy, but nobody's actually paying attention to the operation of the government. I don't know who they have there to do that. I think for that to happen, the president is going to have to bring in somebody. He attempted with Anthony Scaramucci to get that done. Not sure that he would have gotten it done had he made it, but he didn't even make it through the appointment process. Look, I hear you calling for a ...

Howard: There are more people there than you think, but the ... Look, this week and we'll get to it next I'm sure, the Affordable Care Act, everybody's talking about it but there's so much blocking and tackling of government that goes on below the headlines. So much happens, or nothing happens. It's not ... It feels like something that is a total eclipse of the sun. It's not. This is a huge government, a sprawling bureaucracy. So much had to go on and you're right. If you're X of the national security apparatus, or maybe including that. If you're anti-Donald Trump then I guess you're happy that they're not, you're obviously happy that they're not staffed up and ready to go. Look, it's better for the country to have a fully functioning government, pro, con whatever it is. It's better for the country to have predictability coming out of Washington and they're missing an opportunity.

Mark: Howard I want to elaborate on that because one of the interesting sort of circumstances that this administration put itself in was that it was going to change the way Washington was run. I think we're seeing some of that. The president's issued an executive order in essence calling for a wholesale review of the executive branch in the context of considering ways to make the government more "efficient." We know what that means.

We have seen the president look at that branch and think that changing the way Washington does business certainly means shrinking the size of government. Now he's not the first president to come up with it. Bill Clinton shrunk ...

Howard: Every president ...

Mark: The size of government to its lowest levels. I'm not suggesting anything necessarily novel there. But in terms of sort of the point of view of the executive branch, I wonder what you make of those efforts and whether the lack of sort of forward progress on hiring is perhaps in some ways purposeful?

Howard: No. No. Not at the appointee level. I think it is a little bit of bumbling and what Mark said earlier, not being ready to transition into the presidency at the appointee level and really not understanding government and what you need to move the needle. Not at the appointee level, it's not purposeful. Look on the agenda of making government more efficient, yeah we do what that means. The government needs to be more efficient. The government is terribly inefficient. The executive branch moves at a snail's pace and people are sick of it.

Yeah, it means a smaller federal workforce. Guess what? There should be a smaller federal workforce. I mean it's absurd in some respects and that's an area both where Trump can do some real good, if he gets some people around him that understand the mechanics of how to do that. A lot of this is mechanics. But also, I think it's expectation that people that voted for him have. I don't think that there is any diminished enthusiasm among the people that put him in the presidency, today relative to when they voted for him on November 8th, but if we're in 2018 or 2019 or 2020 and things haven't happened, you better bet that there's going to be diminished enthusiasm. They just need to get going.

Mark: People voted for Donald Trump, all sorts of people voted for him for all sorts of reasons of course, but one of the reasons that some people voted for him was that the sold himself and he is the leading sales person on the planet. He sold himself as a successful businessman. I agree with you Howard, 50 days in, the base hasn't punished him yet for not bringing business practices to the White House, but he has not brought business practices to the White House. I see no evidence to suggest that he ever will. I think that is one of the many moving parts that people over time, not 50 days in but 250 days in are going to start expecting some delivery on. This is one, this is one that I don't expect him to succeed with. He's brought in businessmen. He brought in Carl Eikon, who's contribution to the administration so far ...

Howard: Oh he didn't bring in Carl Eikon. He didn't bring in Carl Eikon. He gave him a ceremonial position. He brought in Wilbur Ross.

Mark: But he allowed Carl Eikon from his ceremonial position to repeal a regulation that was bad for his oil interests.

Howard: That's a policy judgment. That's a policy judgment. That's not ...

Mark: That's not a business practice.

Howard: I think he should have a new rule. I think just like he repealed two regs for every new one that's put in place, he should bring in somebody that knows government for every person he puts in there that doesn't. He's a business person, but that doesn't. You know, Wilbur Ross, he can do a lot of good, but he doesn't, he hasn't spent his life in and around government and he's got to have people, they've got to have people around them, and look I know people that have been in the running for different slots or under consideration for different slots that do know government. Right now I think there's a little bit too much of a litmus test in terms of kind of loyalty to Trump and I think that will fade with time. Conversely I think way too much is being made of things like the US Attorney resignations or firings, whatever you want to call them. Like that's just the normal course of government.

Blake: Yeah, I want to come back to the US Attorney because I think that there is a, there is an issue at least bubbling up out of the southern district of New York that may have some relationships to the administration. I want to talk about the posture of the now former US Attorney in New York and what that means politically. I do want to stick with the theme of challenges that come from the sort of lack of experience, building on Howard's point.

Lack of experience and knowledge of government because one thing, and Mark you touched on this earlier and it's certainly appropriate to discuss because we've seen just an interesting rationale coming out of the White House over the last 24 hours, which we know that not long ago the president woke up and took to Twitter and accused the former president of wire tapping him during the campaign which really sent I think ripples across Washington, certainly an unprecedented accusation historically. Since, Mark they have really struggled to figure out what their narrative is in part because from a sitting sort of one the, in the back row so to speak, you know staff isn't willing to challenge the boss here even when the claim is unfounded and Republicans organize basically en masse to say, hey look this is an untrue allegation.

You still, the best you get from the White House is, well that's not, the president really didn't mean wire tapping. He meant surveillance via microwave which is what Kellyanne Conway said. I wonder what you equate. Is that inexperience or is that just Trump exercising what is believed to be his business acumen which is my way or the highway? He made that clear during the campaign.

Mark: It's the emperor's new clothes is what it is. There's one thing that's clear and there's another thing that's not clear. What is clear is that what you see is what you get and Donald Trump is going to continue to conduct his presidency in this manner. For 48 hours I was lectured by a lot of my Republican friends, one of whom is on this phone call, that the president actually read a teleprompter speech articulately in Congress and there was the pivot, which of course lasted until he woke up early on Saturday morning and now that's been the dominant story and the dominant focus in the White House.

It is clear that this White House is going to have a very, very hard time getting done all the things that Howard appropriately says they need to get to to staff up this government in the national interest, not just for their agenda. In the national interest. It's going to be hard if they are running around trying to defend the indefensible which is of course what those tweets were.

What we don't know yet is at what point the Republicans on the Hill say no mas. Enough is enough. We just can't back up this. We can't have this guy's back any longer. You know we have the Ryan tape which has surfaced with the Speaker actually saying that before the election and now there's the continued Breitbart war on Ryan and we will see. We don't know where that line in the sand is, but I believe that we're not going to see a different president than we have seen. We've seen the same man as a businessman, as a candidate and now for 50 days as the president. What I don't know yet is when people on the Hill and elsewhere are going to say, "Wait a minute. The Emperor has no clothes." That's what we're waiting to find out.

Blake: Howard, one of the interesting developments as well in the context of the wire tapping claim by the president was in essence to encourage Congress to launch an investigation into those claims. We know that Congress has been interested in the relationship between Russia and the elections and certainly the hacking of both national committees. What do you make of that strategic decision and the sense that that was the administration really sort of aligning itself with a strategy or was that something that potentially presents problems for them down the road.

Howard: I think it was damage control.

Blake: With that in mind, Russia's not going away. Sean Spicer's daily press briefings not only have the attention of a whole lot of people. I think his name ID is very high but it's now clear the president watches them everyday and blocks out time in his schedule to watch them. Which leads us to the issue that will dominate press briefings for at least the next several days which is the unveiling of I will say House leadership's replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act. Mark, you work on behalf of passage of the Affordable Care Act back in President Obama's first term.

Doesn't really take much to I think conclude that their plan landed with a resounding thud after the CBO's estimates came out and then news that the White House estimates were even worse than the CBO's estimates. We can get into, we got into the nuances of what the House plan looked like last week so I would encourage anybody to certainly listen to last week's call online, but I want to talk about the politics of this, because Mark you did set up this notion of well when do House Republicans turn on Trump? This presents a dynamic of how long does Trump stick with this plan. Wanted to get your thoughts.

Mark: Well you just said what my primary thought is, and that is I at least am not going to let you get away with calling it the House plan. This is the Trump/Ryan Plan. The president enthusiastically endorsed it. We know from our work, yours and mine Howard, and Blake's that the White House was actively involved in the approval of the plan before it was released. This was in many ways ... By the way Secretary Price's plan when he was in Congress and working with Paul Ryan on this issue.

So at least as of today, this is the Trump/Ryan plan. The question you asked Blake I think is a very astute political one which is how long is the White House going to leave the Trump brand on this plan? I think not very long is the answer. There are already indications from the White House, several of the top officials that as with all things Trump, this is just an opening bid and it's subject to negotiation. I don't think the Speaker and the Republican leadership in the House necessarily see it that way. I think that wedge is getting driven.

What is interesting and for the first time in 50 days even a little bit encouraging for the Democrats is the Democrats aren't doing any of the heavy lifting here. You've got your Senator from Arkansas, Blake, Tom Cotton and Rand Paul and Dean Heller and others, and by the way it only takes three for this not to happen in the Senate. You've got the fiercest opposition to this plan coming from Republican Senators and that is a difficult dynamic for the Trump/Ryan plan.

Blake: Howard, your thoughts?

Howard: Yeah I guess Washington is all about ownership. These guys are setting each other up. Remember our laws of nature, that the House hates the Senate, the White House hates the Congress, the Congress hates the White House even more than Republicans and Democrats hate one another at times. I think what's going on here is an attempt to lay blame. Ultimately the Republicans, if this fails, let's assume it does, will try to push the blame as a big picture political matter on the Democrats. The House is going to pass something I believe and will lay that at the feet of the Senate. The White House, yeah unclear. I think they're hedging their bets.

Mark, I don't disagree that this is in some respects their plan, but I don't thing Trump ... I think they've got their toe in the water. They certainly haven't gone all in on this yet. I think the politics are really interesting. At the end of the day, Obamacare is a failure and it's a financial failure and I think the end of this movie involves the implosion of Obamacare, then picking up the pieces on a bipartisan basis as opposed to some piece of legislation really making its way out of this Congress.

Blake: Mark I want to get your thoughts ...

Mark: Howard, I think the die is cast by the way. We can debate some other time whether the Affordable Care Act at large has failed or whether it is the health insurance exchanges which is just one part of the Affordable Care Act which have in fact failed. They are not working. That is true and clear. The die politically is cast. The Republican party owns healthcare. Washington is about ownership as you say and the Republican party owns Washington. By taking on healthcare which they of course had to do after all the fake promises to repeal it on day one for seven years, they had to do it but they now own it. This is not even, whether anything passes or not, it is no longer Obamacare and it is no longer the Democrat's problem because it is the White House, the Senate and the House all bright red, all Republican, pointing fingers at each other in trying to blame somebody else for not being able to fix it. I congratulate ...

Howard: I'm not sure that that's the way the politics play out. I'm not sure that that's the way the politics of this play out at the end of the day. There's so much.

Mark: Well it's the way it's playing out in these town meetings that folks are going home to. We'll see if anybody at the end of some day is going to hold the president accountable for not even proposing a plan that does what he promised. He of course promised something different than Ryan promised. We have a plan that doesn't even purport to do what the president promised.

Blake: I do want to get into the politics a bit more at the state level because it's not just, it's not just Republicans in Congress who have come out in opposition to this. Republican governors, particularly Republican governors in states that expanded Medicaid have come out in opposition to this and Mark you highlighted Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton who has been a pointed opponent of this plan and nationally sort of set himself up to oppose Paul Ryan intellectually and I think to oppose Republicans politically in so far as saying some very specific things about don't walk the plank here.

The governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, also a Republican, House impeachment manager, a former member of Congress, official in the Bush administration, also opposed to this plan. Came out in opposition to it a couple of days ago and he's not alone. These are not lone voices and these are not moderate political voices. No one I think would confuse Senator Cotton with being a moderate Republican. Howard, how do you grapple with the politics out in the states where you have Republican governors saying this plan, whether it's the Trump/Ryan plan, however it gets branded to you all's discussion about ownership, at the end of the day, how do you reconcile those politics do you think?

Howard: It depends what state you're talking about.

Blake: Well okay, let's start with Arkansas where Trump won. Trump received 60% of the votes. One of his largest margins of victory in the country. I mean the point is I think, is that you, it's not ... I guess the question I'm asking you is this isn't Washington centric. This is state centric as well because Medicaid expansion is a state issue and when you've seen dramatic drops in the uninsured rate ... Stick with Arkansas. It's uninsured rate's been cut in half as a result of the Affordable Care Act and primarily as a result of Medicaid expansion. I think it presents a dynamic that perhaps Paul Ryan being representing one small Congressional district may not have thought through and one that Republicans in the Senate, representing an entire state, have a better perspective on, which presents ...

Howard: Of course he's thought it through. Of course he's thought it through. He's making a political calculation that they have got to put forward a repeal and replace bill. They simply have to. I think at the end of the day, he's okay if it doesn't pass because he's going to try to blame that one somebody else. I think that's the political calculation that's going on.

Mark: Paul Ryan ...

Blake: Mark.

Mark: ... Is offering a bargain. I'm going to back up and say Donald Trump and Paul Ryan are offering a bargain in the American Health Care Act that Tom Cotton and Asa Hutchinson are rejecting on behalf of their constituents in Arkansas. The bargain they offering is we are going to trade coverage for millions of Americans. Forget whether the CBO estimate is spot on or off by 50%. If it's off by 50% you are still talking about 12, 13, 14 million Americans and twice that if the CBO estimate is more accurate. The White House estimate itself was 26 million Americans losing coverage.

The bargain that Trump and Ryan are offering is we're going to take coverage away from 20 million Americans but we're going to save you all kinds of money. If you're rich we're going to give you back some of the taxes we've been taking and if you're about reducing federal spending, we're going to do that by stopping all this money going into the states through Medicaid and we're offering you a bargain. Smaller federal spending, lower taxes and we're going to knock a bunch of poor people, 20 some million off of the insurance roles. Asa Hutchinson and Tom Cotton are saying no.

Howard: They're not. They're not Mark.

Mark: They're not what?

Howard: It's not going to pass.

Mark: No no I'm saying ... Blake was asking why Tom Cotton and Governor Hutchinson are against it and I'm saying ... And by the way, it might pass. It might not but what I'm saying is the reason that an Asa Hutchinson and a Tom Cotton who otherwise have no use for anything that happened during the eight years of the Obama administration are so loud and clear in being against this is they are saying, "Down here in Arkansas ... We don't know about what's happening anywhere else. Down here in Arkansas, we are not buying that bargain. We'll deal with the federal spending and we'll deal with the higher taxes. We'll address all of that otherwise but you're not taking coverage away from all these constituents of ours."

Howard: And they're positioning themselves politically as well. This thing is a political football and everybody is lining up. It's all about getting re-elected and everybody's lining up around their re-election and that's what's going on and I think at the end of the day, that the Democrats that, at the end of this process, Obamacare's still going to exist and that the country which by and large isn't satisfied with the system is going to look at what we have and where we are and still blame President Obama for getting us into this morass in the first place.

Mark: Yeah, we'll see. We'll see. I think it's already owned by the R's and if it doesn't change we have a big problem inside the Republican party and we're all talking politics here and I'm as cynical about the whole thing as the next guy but I do think there are actually some of the people involved here who care about healthcare coverage for their constituents, not just about the vote. But on the political level here, if the Medicaid expansion is not rolled back, there are red, red states, Texas, Oklahoma and on that are being punished for resisting Obama and not accepting the expansion while the RINO states get all this federal money because the Republicans in Washington didn't repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act. They are hard pressed down there whichever way this comes out to keep Republicans happy.

Blake: You know it's funny because you know I'm certainly interested in where the pulse of the country is. One of the things that we've seen is that there are aspects of the Affordable Care Act that Republicans like. You know, Gallop Poll released not too long ago, 59% of Republicans want to keep the provision that prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions. 56% of Republicans want to keep the provision that allowed those younger than 26 to stay on their parents' health insurance plan. 59% of Republicans want to keep the provision requiring businesses with more than 50 full time employees to provide health insurance.

There is a lot about this that complicates the politics because you know when you're talking about nearly 60% of Republicans nationwide liking certain provisions, I think that presents a calculation. I'll be interested to see. I'll be interested as this, as the discussion of the Affordable Care Act continues whether there is any life to the theory that putting forth a plan even if the plan fails is enough to win. I tend to think that we'll probably be coming back to a quote that President Trump made which was, "If we don't pass something then it's a bloodbath in 2018." Whether the calculation was this is that bargaining chip, or bargaining, this sort of opening move and we'll negotiate our way out seems complicated if Howard your theory is right, that this is very much about cost cutting and not coverage and that's a pretty easy dividing line.

Howard: Yeah, that quote, I'll put that in the same bucket as wire tapping. How about that?

Blake: Well wire tapping led to a Congressional investigation. I think that the one thing to consider about the political challenges of the Affordable Care Act and would be interested in your response is that you know for seven years, we have heard that the first thing that the Republicans will do is repeal and replace Obamacare. It was going to be the first thing that President Trump did. We got a bill. It seems to stand no chance of passage in the Senate which general means it's by no consequence dead on arrival although there may be a ceremonial vote in the House.

I think the thing to watch is whether that is enough politically, whether it's enough to just put forth a plan or whether you see something come out of the Senate. Rand Paul's got a plan for example that maybe picks up steam with the White House. Be interested to see whether something like that ...

Howard: There's certainly political consequences whatever happens here and time will tell how they play out. I think we really need to look at healthcare through a generational lens as opposed to this presidency or that presidency. I think it's probably a number of administrations down the road where this actually gets worked out and resolved. We're going to need some divided government and some crisis to come to the right resting place on Obamacare. I don't think the debate that's going on is no pun intended really I think healthy.

This is the way, if you step back from the politics of the day to day, this is what is supposed to happen. Congress passes a bill. It gets rolled out. It gets executed by the executive branch. It works or it doesn't work. They debate reforms. Maybe they pass new legislation. Maybe they don't. Eventually they've got to tinker with the system. That's what's going on here and if we look at this through a 25 year lens as opposed to a four, an eight or a twelve year lens, I think it looks very different. If something comes out on the other end that works out, that's the way I see this playing out in the long term.

Blake: Mark do you sense that where we stand is tinkering or do you sense a fundamental shift? People seem to come down on both sides of that. I would love your perspective.

Mark: Fundamental shift Blake on healthcare policy?

Blake: Sorry, yeah on healthcare policy.

Mark: Yeah. No, what is being proposed is not tinkering. It is a fundamental shift. It is the repeal, not replacement. It is the repeal of a program that expanded Medicaid for more than 10 million Americans and it is the repeal and replacement and repair and reset of the healthcare exchanges. That is not a fundamental change in policy so much as it is a re-engineering, but on Medicaid, make no mistake about it. It is a fundamental switch off, switch change from expanding healthcare coverage for poor Americans to pulling it away again.

I agree with Howard that this is a generational debate, but I think as a political matter, it goes, it doesn't stand along. It's one more hip bone connected to the thigh bone thing where it looks like today that one more promise that the Republicans made when they were trying to kick out the Democrats and ultimately succeeding on November 8, that one more promise isn't going to be kept. The question politically isn't so much who gets punished for not dealing with the Medicaid expansion. The question is how many, how long can the Republicans owning everything in sight in Washington, how long can they go without delivering on any of their promises. We will find out. Certainly they can go 50 days. There's been no retribution so far, but we'll see if they can go two years without delivering on promises because nothing being proposed is doing anything for the people who put Donald Trump in the White House.

Blake: I think the broader political consequence for the president which is why I raised it initially, was how long does the president stick with this plan is if there, if this is a two year process and there is no progress and the only thing hanging out there is this current plan, where for example if you're 64 years or older, your premiums go from $1700, what you're responsible for goes from $1700 to $14,600, that's going to matter in Florida. That's going to matter in Arizona. That's going to matter in Pennsylvania, where you have three of the largest older populations in the country. If they don't get anything done in two years, is there a Republican Senate left? Is there a Republican Congress left? And what does that mean for the president's broader prospects for re-election. I think the politics of this are fascinating because once again we stand to see potentially a presidency intertwined with healthcare, just as we saw with President Obama's administration.

Look, we're just getting into this. I think that we'll have a lot more to say about it. Hopefully we'll bring some other people into the discussion as we see this from both the private sector vantage point and from the perspective both in the White House and from Congress. Looking forward to that ongoing discussion. Think it will be interesting and hopefully a value add to everybody who's taken the time on this snowy day to listen to our call. Before we go I think, you know the all important question that everyone's been waiting for is, Mark, Howard have you filled out your NCAA tournament brackets?

Mark: Well I have certainly filled out the national champion. Now I have to work backwards and figure out exactly how Villanova repeats.

Blake: I knew exactly who your national champion would be Mark.

Mark: Arkansas, one round. I'm taking your Razorbacks only one round.

Blake: It's easy money Mark. They're going to be about an even bet when they go off in Vegas. You should take them. They're a good team. I know you followed them very closely all season so you know the ins and outs of them, but a good team they will match up with the North Carolina Tarheels in the second round. Probably not going to get that done. For betting purposes, since I do have the Tarheels going all the way and avenging their last second loss last year. I think the Tarheels get it done. Well anyway, a little bit of humor to end our call.

Howard: Go Blue. Go blue.

Blake: I want to thank everyone for listening. Mark, Howard, thank you as always for your perspectives and your insights. You can listen to this call and all our previous calls online. Again, thanks everybody for listening and we look forward to doing another one of these calls soon.

Howard: Thanks.

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