What’s Going On: Why Klobuchar can never be president

Publisher’s Note: Some of my columns are meant to enlighten readers, educate them, introduce a new perspective, or even inspire. This is not one of those columns.

Earlier this week, I read a story (too old to remember where) about Amy Klobuchar considering a 2020 bid for the presidency.

Wouldn’t that be nice to have one Minnesota’s finest sitting in the oval office? Unless you count Michelle Bachmann (which I don’t) Minnesota hasn’t had a viable presidential candidate since Walter Mondale, and we all know how that turned out.

Unfortunately, though, Klobuchar has no more of a chance than Bachmann, or Rick Santorum, or Chris Christie, or even Mike Huckabee.

But the reason for that has nothing to do with her politics, or her party, or her qualifications. Much like those aforementioned predecessors who unsuccessfully sought their respective parties’ presidential nominations in previous elections, her fatal flaw rests in something seemingly more trivial: Her last name.

Donald Trump. Barack Obama. George Bush (H and W). Bill Clinton. Ronald Reagan. Jimmy Carter. Gerald Ford. Richard Nixon. Lyndon Johnson. John Kennedy.

What do they all have in common? Well, certainly not their politics. Nor religion. Nor race.

The one common denominator linking those past 11 presidents (beyond the fact they are all men) is the length of their last name: all of them contain seven or less letters.

You have to go back to old Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s to find a president with eight or more letters in their last name.

What’s equally astounding, is in that time, even the loser in the presidential race had less than eight letters in their name, ensuring the seven-letter limit would be adhered to regardless.

Hillary Clinton. Mitt Romney. John McCain. John Kerry. Al Gore. Bob Dole. Bush Sr. Michael Dukakis. Walter Mondale. Carter. Ford.

You have to go back to 1972 when George McGovern lost to Nixon to find a major party candidate with eight letters or more in his or her last name.

Interestingly, McGovern was the end of a trend as 8-letter candidates had previously been anything but unusual. Including him (and Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey in 1968) and counting Adlai Stevenson once (despite losing in ’52 and ’56) six of the previous 12 defeated candidates all had the longer last name.

And including Eisenhower, six of the previous presidents also had eight letters or more. The 11 before that? Five of them exceeded seven letters in their surname.

But since Eisenhower, we’ve gone 0-11 in terms of elected presidents while the previous eight (not counting previous presidents twice) defeated major party candidates also had a seven letter or shorter last name.

Now, ignoring the historical precedence of longer last names that has suddenly reversed itself, a fair question is how frequent is a longer last name. Well, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 20 percent of Americans have a last name with eight letters or more, or nearly one in five.

So in other words, of that aforementioned sample size of 19 presidents or near-presidents, somewhere between four or five should have had a last name longer than seven letters.

Instead, we have a big zero.

Is it major conspiracy on the part of the government? I hope not, because if it is and I’ve discovered It, well, I’ve seen The Pelican Brief and it didn’t end well for the guy who discovered the secret plot.

Either way, Sen. Klobuchar may have more of an uphill battle to the White House than she ever suspected.


Gregory Orear is the publisher of The Journal. His award-winning weekly column, “What’s Going On,” has been published in four newspapers in three states for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at gorear@nujournal.com.