Of Kansas said last week that he...

SEN. ROBERT "BOB" DOLE

April 17, 1995|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

SEN. ROBERT "BOB" DOLE of Kansas said last week that he should be elected president because "there's never been a president named 'Bob.' "

Senator! You shouldn't have opened that can of worms!

You were immediately followed into the race by Rep. Robert "Bob" Dornan of California. Who knows how many other Bobs will be in this before it's over.

Of course, for the record, Senator Dole is right. There's never been a Bob in the White House, though some unkind Yankees of my acquaintance used to refer to President Carter as Jim Bob.

In fact, there's never been a Bob presidential nominee of a major party. (Robert "Bob" LaFollette was the Progressive Party nominee in 1924 and carried only his home state of Wisconsin.) The closest a Bob came was in 1952 when Sen. Robert "Bob" Taft of Ohio lost to Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower at the Republican National Convention on a roll call vote of 595 to 500.

By my count our 39 presidents have shared 26 given names. There have been six Jameses, four Johns, three Williams, two Andrews and two Franklins.

Statisticians might say, "Well, Theo, there are so many given names in widespread usage in America that it is no wonder there has never been a Bob." But Robert has always been a popular name for American boy babies. In the first quarter of this century, it was the most popular name, according to the Census Bureau. Yet seven presidents of that generation have come and gone and no president.

Patrick "Pat" Buchanan can run on Dole's issue. There has never been a president named Pat. Same thing with Gov. Pete "Pete" Wilson of California. There has never been a president named Pete. Same thing with Sen. Arlen "Arl" Specter of Pennsylvania. Same thing with Sen. Phil "Phil" Gramm of Texas. Same thing with former Gov. Lamar "Lamar" Alexander of Tennessee. Same thing with Sen. Richard "Dick" Lugar of -- wait a minute! Scratch that! (How soon we forget.)

While many presidents have had exotic first names -- Zachary, Millard, Ulysses, Rutherford, Chester -- many common American names have been shut out, along with Bob. There's never been a Charley, Dan, Don, Ernie, Fred, Ken, Mike, Paul, Sam, Walt.

It will be interesting to see if Senator Dole's call for justice affects the Democrats. Former Gov. Robert "Bob" Casey of Pennsylvania has been exploring the possibility of running against President William "Bill" Clinton. Some Democrats are urging Sen. Robert "Bob" Kerrey of Nebraska, who ran in 1992's primaries, to run again in 1996.

Politically speaking, Bob is not that great a name at any level. Maryland hasn't had a senator Bob since Robert "Bob" Goldsborough in 1836.

Senator Dole may be the pathfinder to the White House for his clan. He's done it before. He is the first Bob ever elected to the Senate from Kansas.

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