Fallout from sexual harassment, former FBI Director James Comey's firing and the ensuing Russia probe by special counsel Robert Mueller are all in strong positions to be the top political stories of 2017.
Will there be an upset Thursday? Voting begins at 8:30 a.m. ET and will close at noon ET, when voting will begin on the final eight. (VOTE HERE!)
In Round 2 voting of the NPR Top Political Story of the Year Bracket, voters on Twitter advanced top seeds easily and delivered an upset — 6-seed Travel Ban over No. 3 Gutting Obamacare, 53-47.
In another close contest, 3-seed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch's appointment narrowly beat out No. 6 North Korea missile tests and Trump calling Kim Jong Un "Rocket Man," 51-49.
Also, perhaps surprisingly, two 5-seeds beat No. 4s — Arizona Sen. John McCain's Thumbs-Down health care vote trounced No. 4 Trump vs. the NFL and black athletes, 59-41; and Doug Jones' Alabama Win narrowly defeated the End of Net-Neutrality, 51-49.
Here's the bracket: (VOTE HERE!)
It's a big day Thursday, as voting continues on Twitter. Readers will have a chance to vote on two round. By the end of the day, we will know the final four teams. The winner will be announced Friday afternoon.
1. Trump inauguration vs. the Women's March: Trump inauguration has performed as the weakest 1 seed so far. It defeated the controversy of Trump vs. Gold Star Mom 68-32. The other 1 seeds finished with at least 87 percent in both rounds.
2. The fallout over sexual harassment and the Mueller Probe have emerged as the two to beat. Neither has gotten less than 96 percent of votes in the first two rounds.
3. The winner of Inauguration vs. March takes on the winner of No. 3 Natural Disasters and Undermining of Democratic Institutions, which breezed in Round 2.
4. Mueller appears poised to move on again, taking on McCain's Thumbs-Down. The winner of that match takes on whoever emerges out of what could be a close contest in Travel Ban vs. Charlottesville.
5. Sexual Harassment Fallout appears to be in a strong position going up against Doug Jones in a contest that pits the story with the widest reach of the year against the top electoral political story of the year.
6. The winner there takes on the winner of a tough-to-decide matchup between a Year of Gun Violence and "Alternative Facts."
7. In the lower right bracket, Comey's firing takes on the Paris Climate Deal Withdrawal, a story that has shown surprising strength crushing two solid stories so far.
8. The Comey-Paris winner takes on whoever emerges out of Gorsuch vs. the Tax Overhaul.
Some good contests Thursday. You can vote here.
NOTES: After the first round, there were two perfect brackets from Persistent Voter (@VMurphy1787) and Parker Ashford (@parkerashford). Kudos! Amazing accomplishment out of 285 brackets submitted. But there are no more perfect brackets after Round 2. Both missed some matchups. Still, Persistent has only missed two the entire tournament. Congrats!
And both readers have been good sports about it, wishing each other luck — rare comity on Twitter:
You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.