Of Towson writes: "Of all the...


July 06, 1992|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

IRWIN E. WEISS of Towson writes: "Of all the individuals

elected president in our country's history, only four had last names beginning with two consonants. . . . This pattern does not bode well for Governor Clinton."

Evuhrybody wants to get inta de act!

When it comes to stupid political science trends, I thought I had espoused them all. But this is new.

Mr. Weiss goes on to say that compared to the four winners -- Grant, Cleveland, McKinley and Truman -- 16 candidates with last names of two initial consonants lost, and that's not counting Cleveland, who lost one election and won two. He also points out that one of Cleveland's wins was over Blaine and that McKinley beat Bryan both times: "Someone had to win."

There have been 20 elections in which a candidate with a name like Clinton ran against an opponent with a name like Bush and Perot, consonant-consonant versus consonant-vowel. Only three times did the double-consonant candidate win.

Mr. Weiss is on to something. Names make a difference, and the record clearly shows "C-l" are the worst two initial consonants a candidate can have in a last name, and "Clinton" is the worst last name:

There were C-l candidates in 1789, 1792, 1796, 1808, 1812, 1832, 1884, 1888 and 1892. They won only in 1884 and 1892.

And five of those candidates were named Clinton! George Clinton in 1789, 1792, 1796 (technically; different election rules) and 1808, and De Witt Clinton in 1812.

Bad news for Bill Clinton. No one bearing the surname of another losing presidential candidate has ever won a presidential election. What never? Well, hardly ever. John Quincy Adams won in 1824 after John Adams lost in 1800. And Franklin D. Roosevelt did get elected four times in the 1930s and 1940s, after Theodore Roosevelt lost in 1912. But at least John had won in 1796 and Teddy had won in 1908.

But wait a minute! Clinton is not Bill's real name. Clinton is the surname of his stepfather. His real father's name, which he kept legally till he was four years old, is -- Blythe. (Oops. B-l.)

This is not the first time we had a presidential nominee who ran under an assumed name. No, not Gary Hart (formerly Hartpence) in 1984 and 1988. He wasn't the nominee. I'm talking about 1976 and Gerald Ford, who was born Lesley Lynch King Jr., but changed it when his mother married Gerald Ford Sr.

This year's election will be a first in that two presidential nominees will have legally changed names. Henry Ross Perot was Henry Ray Perot till he was 12 years old. He changed it because Ross is his father's -- and a dead older brother's -- middle name.

I can understand that change. I can't understand changing the pronunciation from PEE-row to puh-ROW, which he did while at the Naval Academy. Isn't that kind of Frenchy for the homespun, Americana candidate?

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