We are not sure which one is easier: predicting the winner of the NCAA tournament or the FCC‘s new leadership. Less than a week after commish Robert McDowell’ s departure announcement, no one appeared to stand out as candidate for the GOP slot. On the other hand, Tom Wheeler, a veteran telecom policy expert and entrepreneur, is still seen as the frontrunner for Julius Genachowski’s chmn spot. For the Republican seat, some names had been mentioned more often than others. Senate support could give potential candidates like Michael O’Rielly, a staffer with Senate majority whip John Cornyn (R-TX), and Doug Schwartz, staff dir of the Senate Republican Conference Committee, advantages over others, several Washington observers said. It is believed that Cornyn and Sen John Thune (R-SD), a ranking member of the Commerce Committee, will have major say in the selection. Meanwhile, potential candidates on the House side will have a shot if the Senate decides to let it pick this time around (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is believed to have backed commish Ajit Pai). So far, the names of Ray Baum, sr policy adviser to Rep Greg Walden (OR) and Neil Fried, chief counsel for the House Communications & Tech subcommittee, have come up a few times. Among outsiders, we’re hearing mention of AB Cruz. The former chief legal officer at Scripps Networks Interactive (for 8 years) and ex- BET exec was key in establishing Scripps’ Washington presence and has worked on affiliate negotiations, said a seasoned industry exec who has worked with Cruz. “A man of integrity,” Cruz “listens to all points of view before making a decision,” the exec said, saying Cruz has “all the good qualities for an FCC commissioner.” However, with no apparent backers on the Hill, he might be a long shot, one observer said. While there have been delays in the past in the approval process of new FCC commissioners, there is speculation that the confirmation process can move forward without significant delay, broadcast attorney David Oxenford with Wilkinson Baker said in a recent blog post. In the interim, the FCC can continue to do business with 3 commissioners should the replacements not be confirmed before the departures. The good news is Republican lawmakers are motivated to move the process forward in a timely manner because they want to see the spectrum incentive auction succeed and to do that, a new team is needed asap, FCC watchers said. It is speculated that the new leadership will be in place before the summer recess (the week of July 1).