Names like Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and even Barack Obama were all recognized “brand” names when the nominees took office as president. To date, there are many who still don’t know the full names of the current presidential candidates. I heard someone ask, “Is ‘Mitt’ short for ‘Mitten’ or something?” All the candidates seem to be taking an informal approach as if it were “casual day” at work. We hear “Newt,” “Rick,” “Ron,” and “Mitt,” but I don’t think we heard anyone refer to JFK as “Jack” until after he was in office, and by then we all knew who he was anyway because he gave us a formal introduction. I do not recall any of the 2012 candidates stating their full names, so who really are these people?
For Mitt Romney, I have learned that “Mitt” is his actual middle name, but what a surprise it would be if he were to become elected and the headlines read “President-elect Willard M. Romney?” People would be scratching their heads saying, “What!?” “Who!?” I believe the only president who went by his middle name was Grover Cleveland, but he had dropped his first name “Stephen” when he reached adulthood, so there was no confusion by the time he ran for office. Has the name “Willard” been formally dropped? It’s not a bad name. It rhymes with “Millard” as in Millard Fillmore–the 13th President of the United States. There’s no guarantee however that someone would not make a comparison of Mitt’s administration to the original film of the ’70’s “Willard”–which was a story about an army of trained rats–when the harsh criticism comes…and it will come!
In our lifetime, I believe only Jimmy Carter used his nickname throughout his campaign and during his presidency. Perhaps he figured using his given name James Earl would conjure thoughts in voters’ minds of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassin James Earl Ray. If today someone were to refer to Carter as President James Carter, it would most likely not ring a bell. So, for name recognition it would seem the 2012 candidates would take time to introduce themselves formally to get people used to their names just like any brand (remember when shipping giant Federal Express became FedEx? The brand was already firmly etched in customers’ minds and they didn’t miss a beat).
On another note: Forget about “hanging chads” and some of the other issues that have been surfacing at the polling stations–what if the candidates’ full names inadvertently appeared on the ballot and voter confusion erupted? Dollars to donuts some will think it’s trickery and bypass the selection altogether. It sounds far-fetched, but I’m just sayin’… So–for the benefit of those who don’t know–here are the full names of the candidates: Newt is Newton Leroy Gingrich; Ron is Ronald Ernest Paul; Mitt is Willard Mitt Romney; and Rick is Richard John Santorum. Now, looking at their complete initials I can’t help but wonder what possible slogans we could derive from them similarly to Lyndon Baines Johnson’s “All the way with LBJ.” Nicknames have their place, but on the campaign trail to the highest office in the land, I believe a little more formality is in order.
Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” (Steuben Pub) www.amazon.com. Available at Smiley’s Bookstore in Carson CA, Skylight Books, Los Angeles, and Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara CA. Visit the author at www.larrybuford.com. (213) 220-8101