Friday, February 23, 2007

What's In a Candidate's Name?

So, former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack is dropping out of the 2008 race for the Democratic presidential nomination. He says the contest has already become all about money and he can't raise enough.

I wonder how much of Vilsack’s failure to gain traction has to do with his position as a small-state governor and how much has to do with his last name. There’s just something off-putting about “Vilsack.” Sounds like a German word for sheep innards.

I don’t mean to be shallow. I’m just suggesting that name-recognition is, in part, influenced by a name’s phonic connection with the voters. Vilsack is a harsh sounding word. Compare that to the lyricism of Obama, the strength of McCain or even the comfortably common Richardson.

Of course, a less-than-ideal name (think Giuliani) does not have to be a barrier to name recognition if the man or woman behind the name has done something to distinguish themselves. In the end, that may have been Tom Vilsack’s biggest problem. He is just another middle-aged white male politician with some success in a small state. With a name like Vilsack, he never really had a chance.

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