January 13, 2012

Parsing the race for the presidency


What’s in a name? If the Best American Poetry blog is to be believed, the key to success in the presidential elections. In 2008 the blog proposed a ‘Trochaic Theory’, predicting Barack Obama‘s victory on the basis of the cadence of his name: Barack (an iamb) followed by Obama (an amphibrach), is, they say ‘a very difficult combination to beat’, and I’d imagine they’re the world experts on this. Overall, they say ‘the double trochee is the conventional standard for presidential names’:

Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Warren Harding. The effect is heightened when the name is alliterative: Ronald Reagan, Calvin Coolidge, Woodrow Wilson.

And here’s the really good news: this theory rules this year’s Republican candidates out of the running:

None of the Republican candidates still in the running this year (Romney, Santorum, Paul, Gingrich, Huntsman, Perry) parses out as a double trochee. If Romney and Gingrich had normal first names, like Milton and Nathan, they would qualify, but it is too late for that. From the point of view of trochaic theory Ron Paul would be a disaster for the Republican Party.

They were right in 2008, so let’s just hope their luck holds.

Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.