There are many reasons Mitt Romney will never be elected president. These include, in descending order of importance: 1) He is a Mormon who wears funny underwear. 2) On a family vacation, he drove for many hours with his dog, Seamus, strapped to the roof of his SUV. 3) He is a stuffed shirt, full of ‘pious baloney’, as the incomparable Newt recently put it. 4) He has been on both sides of every issue, while denying that he ever held the opposing view.
But what will sink Romney is his last name. Americans do not find two-syllable names ending with a long e presidential. They are associated with diminutives and baby-talk and lack the requisite gravitas. American history is littered with these losers: Pinckney (1796); another Pinckney (1800, 1804, 1808); Birney (1844); Greeley (1872); Woolley (1900); Hanly (1916); Wilkie (1940); Dewey (1944, 1948); Humphrey (1968); Kerry (2004). The list of those who failed to be even nominated is much longer, including Ed Muskie and Mitt’s dad George. There has never been a baby-trochee president. (Three syllables, however, like Kennedy, evade the curse.)
Elsewhere in the Anglophone world, Canada has never had one for prime minister. Britain has had only one: Attlee. (With Arthur Wellesley, in the 1830s, an iffy case: the name looks like three syllables and he was known as the Duke of Wellington.) Australia, despite its predilection for baby-talk – where else do you see burly men, covered in tattoos, with shaved heads and foot-long beards, say things like ‘The muzzies are biting, let’s get some stubbies and go watch some footy on the telly’? – has had only one: Chifley, in the 1940s. (The long-running Robert Menzies had an s at the end.) New Zealand has had one: the double baby-trochee Jenny Shipley – though as a woman she avoids the associations of emasculation.
Obama – whom Romney calls both a ‘socialist’ and a ‘crony capitalist’, proving that he is not a Kenyan Muslim, as the Tea Party keeps insisting, but a mainland Chinese – is the luckiest guy on earth. An old-fashioned conservative of the Bush Sr ilk might have easily defeated him. But the Republican Party has been taken over by crazy people, ultra-right anarchists who could never win a national election. They may half-heartedly resign themselves to Romney, but this is not at all certain. And then the national obsession with presidential underwear – which began when Clinton actually answered the question ‘boxers or briefs?’ – will kick in. Wait till America sees the stars that Romney wears under his empty suit.