It seems that the first rule of running for the White House is to have a short name.
Consider that of the main candidates left in the Republican Party 2012 primary contest, the longest first name is 4 letters (4 candidates: Mitt, Newt, and two Ricks). Two candidates have only three letters in their first name (Ron and Jon, who together sound like a 1960s-era singing group).
This has been going on for some time.
George had 5 letters to his first name, but only 1 if you called him W. John Kerry had 4 but against a 1-letter-nicknamed candidate, he had no chance.
Al undoubtedly felt the pressure years earlier in his political career, so he went from Albert to Al. In total, Al Gore is 6 letters, which just nips Ron Paul and Bob Dole for fewest full-name letters among recent candidates. Bill’s first name had four, the first George Bush had 5 and that was few enough against Michael.
I’m not sure how Ronald Reagan became president with 12 letters to his full name, but perhaps there is an exemption for alliteration names (which, by the way, would open the door for a run by me in 2016). Barack Obama has 11, but following his predecessor he is known by one letter, O — a brilliant move on his part because it tapped into the Oprah fanbase.
Which brings us back to 2012. Could any of the Republican finalists go by a single letter? I could see Jon Huntsman as J, or Newt Gingrich as G. But anyone else, I’m not seeing it.
There is actually something serious about all of this. Short names lend themselves to images of backslapping good-old-boys of European-American heritage. In general, females seem less likely than males to have uber-short given names, and public usage by women of nicknames seems even less common. And it all matters: Many studies (here’s one and here’s another) have shown how people ascribe characteristics to others simply based upon those individuals’ names.
At their most fundamental level, names are communication vehicles. They are our first points of impression on others, and those impressions are often too subtle for us to be aware of them. But I would suggest that Hillary and Michele had more than opponents to overcome.