CHICAGO, Ill. Zach Bohannon considers himself a staunch Republican. His beliefs are rock-solid and one day he hopes to become President.
Bohannon, a Linn-Mar graduate and a junior on the Wisconsin men's basketball team, argues politics with his teammates, friends, instructors and classmates. But he has an internal debate about his vote in this year's presidential election. Perhaps he's the only Republican in the country struggling with his choice, but Bohannon has a good reason.
When President Barack Obama visited Madison during an October 4 campaign stop, Bohannon launched a Twitter campaign to play the president in pickup basketball. He tweeted the message directly to President Obama's advisers. His Wisconsin teammate, Georgie Marshall, contacted a Democratic donor and a former AAU teammate who knew President Obama. It was a non-stop effort to meet the president, and the campaign went viral.
"I'm like, 'Guys keep retweeting, let's get the support,'" Bohannon said. "The national media picked up on it. 'If he turns us down, it's only going to look bad for him.'"
It worked. President Obama's advisers gave the Wisconsin players VIP passes. The Badgers met with the president for about 10 minutes, although there was no time for basketball. President Obama discussed schoolwork, gave senior Dan Fahey tips on the LSAT and dispensed a little basketball knowledge, too.
"He talked about our home-court advantage and said the true test will be if we can win on the road," Bohannon said. "He said after the election he will be come back. So I'm kind of in a tug-of-war over whether I want him to win to see if he holds up on the promise or if don't want him to win because I'm a Republican. It's kind of a nice little debate I have with myself."
For those who know Bohannon, it's probably an unwinnable argument. He routinely aggravated point guard Jordan Taylor with talking points last year, sometimes taking an unpopular position just to move the needle.
"Jordan is one of those people that had to be right," Bohannon said.
Wisconsin senior Jared Berggren just laughs when he thinks of Bohannon's debates. Bohannon's oldest brother, Jason, played at Wisconsin until 2010 and engaged his teammates in political conversations. But never to Zach's degree, Berggren said.
"They have a lot of the same mannerisms and tendencies," Berggren said. "I think Jason was still knowledgeable and he was into it as well; he just wasn't as argumentative. Where Zach is going to get a little more heated and get some talk going, Jason would stay quiet."
Bohannon is the second of four basketball players in his family. Matt Bohannon is a freshman at Northern Iowa. Jordan Bohannon is a Linn-Mar freshman. Zach Bohannon initially went to the Air Force Academy, where he played for two seasons and started one game. He elected to transfer last year and considered walking on at Northwestern before choosing Wisconsin. He sat out last year and earned a scholarship this year. He will graduate with an economics degree in December and will earn a Master's degree in communications next summer.
Bohannon can play multiple positions in the post, and Coach Bo Ryan said "he will earn minutes."
Through his campaign to snag President Obama, Bohannon drew attention from national media. Now Bohannon writes as a guest blogger for CBSSports.com. His first entry featured his teammate Josh Gasser tearing his ACL in practice.
But politics are Bohannon's passion. He started following presidential debates when he was a youth and turned 18 before the 2008 election. One of his communications professors researches political science. It's almost like he was born for leadership, or as he jokes, "my claim to fame is that I'm the worst of the Bohannons."
"Almost every single thing I've done has me coming back to politics," Bohannon said. "One of my friends in high school said they think that I could become president. I guess they say that crazy people run the world, so I guess I'm the next crazy person.
"I'm hoping to be the youngest president at 38. In 2026 is when I'm hoping I can run, so we'll see."