O, No

Trump a part of the presidential name game.
Published November 05, 2018 | 5 min read

Due to one seemingly insignificant factor, Donald Trump’s shot at winning the election last November should not have been easily discounted: his first name contains the letter O.

Over the last 36 years, going back to 1981, every U.S. president other than Jimmy Carter has had an O in his first or last name, but never in both names. (Carter’s full legal name technically does have an O: James Earl Carter Junior.)

The big O turns out to be pretty important for White House hopefuls, statistically speaking; 40 of the 51 U.S. presidents have had an O in their first or last names, and five had it in both, including our first, George Washington.

Other than that anomaly, getting elected president is hardly the wildly open meritocracy we espouse it to be. The names of the people who’ve held the office make that clear.

More than half (26 of 51) of our commanders-in-chief have been either John, William, Andrew, James, George or Franklin. We’ve had two John Adams presidents, along with two Harrisons, two Roosevelts, two Johnsons and two Bushes. Collectively, these last-name duplicates account for 14 presidential terms.

Ascribing that level of success to coincidence would be wrong. It was familial.

Everyone remembers the father-son Bushes. They weren’t the first. John Adams was the father of John Quincy Adams. William Henry Harrison was the grandfather of Benjamin. And the Roosevelts, Franklin and Teddy, were distant cousins.

Just keeping it all the family, people.

Trump shares another oddity. His first name rhymes with that of another president, Ronald Reagan. (The shortened version, Don, rhymes with John as in John F. Kennedy, John Adams, John Tyler.) There are other rhyming first names: Martin, Franklin, Calvin, Benjamin and Lyndon (pronounced LIN-DIN).

We’ve also seen many “tons” and “sons” among the surnames of White House occupants — Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Harrison, Johnson, Nixon and Clinton — along with Tyler, Taylor, Arthur and Carter.

When it comes to electoral appeal, it pays to look and sound like those who’ve come before you.

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