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November 7, 2000

By the time most of you read this, the Presidential election will be nearly over for another four years and you will already have marked your ballot. So, nothing in this column should be regarded as politically biased. It's too late for that. I don't know when most people chose the candidate they wanted to support, but can you believe how many were “undecided" right up to election day, according to the polls? Most of the folks I talked to selected the candidate of their choice a long time ago.

You can't place too much faith in the polls, anyway, because none of them is infallible. Several years ago I was a poll-taker for one of the major national surveys, and I remember very well how that one turned out. Truman defeated Dewey in 1948 despite all the pre-election indications. That was a major upset. Another was FDR's landslide win over Alfred Landon in 1936, after which Literary Digest magazine quietly quit publishing because of their strange unequivocal prediction that the virtually unknown Willkie would dethrone a popular President.

During the first Eisenhower campaign in 1952, someone stated on a nationally aired radio or TV talk show that Ike would win because his last name had more letters (ten) than did Adlai Stevenson (nine). That surprised me, but his point was borne out by the history of U. S. Presidential elections. Many of them, with some notable exceptions, have been won by the candidate with the most letters in his last name. A glance at the records, as shown in the World Almanac and Book of Facts, substantiates the statement.

My Almanac only goes back to the 1856 election, but here's the record starting with that year:

1856 Buchanan (8) defeated Fremont (7)
1860 Lincoln (7) defeated Douglas (7)
1864 Lincoln (7) defeated McClellan (9)
1868 Grant (5) defeated Seymour (7)
1872 Grant (5) defeated Greeley (7)
1976 Hayes (5) defeated Tilden (6)
1880 Garfield (8) defeated Hancock (7)
1884 Cleveland (9) defeated Harrison (8)
1888 Harrison (8) defeated Cleveland (9)
1892 Cleveland (9) defeated Harrison (8)
1896 McKinley (8) defeated Bryan (5)
1900 McKinley (8) defeated Bryan (5)
1904 Roosevelt (9) defeated Parker (6)
1908 Taft (4) defeated Bryan (5)
1912 Wilson (6) defeated Taft (4)
1916 Wilson (6) defeated Hughes (6)
1920 Harding (7) defeated Cox (3)
1924 Coolidge (8) defeated Davis (5)
1928 Hoover (6) defeated Smith (5)
1932 Roosevelt (9) defeated Hoover (6)
1936 Roosevelt (9) defeated Landon (6)
1940 Roosevelt (9) defeated Willkie (7)
1944 Roosevelt (9) defeated Dewey (5)
1948 Truman (6) defeated Dewey (5)
1952 Eisenhower (10) defeated Stevenson (9)
1956 Eisenhower (10) defeated Stevenson (9)
1960 Kennedy (7) defeated Nixon (5)
1964 Johnson (7) defeated Goldwater (9)
1968 Nixon (5) defeated Humphrey (8)
1972 Nixon (5) defeated McGovern (8)
1976 Carter (6) defeated Ford (4)
1980 Reagan (6) defeated Carter (6)
1984 Reagan (6) defeated Mondale (7)
1988 Bush (4) defeated Dukakis (7)
1992 Clinton (7) defeated Bush (4)
1996 Clinton (7) defeated Dole (4)

So, where does that leave us in this year 2000, when both major party candidates have four-letter words for last names? Stay tuned. It could be Nader or Buchanan.