Three candidates with two ‘first names’ have been elected to the White House over the last half-century

South Carolina Republican U.S. Senator Tim Scott is poised to officially launch his presidential campaign on May 22nd – which happens to coincide with the exact average number of days out from the general election non-incumbent nominees have gotten into the race since 1972 (533 days).

Scott also joins a fairly long list of major party presidential candidates who have launched bids over the past half-century…with two first names.

Smart Politics examined Social Security Administration yearly birth name data over the last six decades and found that nearly three-dozen candidates since 1972 had first and last names that each appeared on the list of the Top 1000 most common baby names at the time of their presidential candidacy.

While ‘Tim’ technically dropped off the list in 1985, ‘Timothy’ – Senator Scott’s birth name – ranks 203rd for male births for the year 2022 (the most recent year data is available). ‘Scott,’ meanwhile, ranked 588th.

During the last half-century, three candidates with first and last names appearing on this list actually won the presidency – Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980, and Bill Clinton in 1992.

‘Jimmy’ was the 101st most common boys name in 1976 (and his birth name ‘James’ was #5) while ‘Carter’ was #651.

In 1980, ‘Ronald’ ranked #58 for boys while ‘Reagan’ was 931st – although for girl births.

Oddly, after Reagan’s election, his surname would fall off the SSA’s Top 1000 baby names list for more than a decade. It returned in 1993 and remains on the list today (peaking at #97 for girl births in 2012 and 2016).

‘Reagan’ would also make a two-decade appearance on the list for names of boys from 1996 through 2017.

In 1992, ‘Bill’ was #900 (with birth name ‘William’ at #20) and ‘Clinton’ was #211.

It should be noted that in addition to Reagan, presidential candidates with two first names whose surname appeared on the SSA’s baby name list for the opposite gender are: Democrats John Lindsay (1972), Hillary Clinton (2008), John Delaney (2020), Elizabeth Warren (2020), and current 2024 hopeful Robert Kennedy, Jr. [Note: ‘Clinton’ fell off the boys name list in 2015].

‘Kennedy’ has consistently been a Top 100 name for girl births since 2011, but fell off the list entirely for boys in 2006.

Meanwhile, the first name of Lindsey Graham (2016), remained a Top 1000 girls name through 2019 but fell off the boys list after 1987.

In total, more than 30 presidential candidates since 1972 had first and last names appearing on the SSA’s Top 1000 baby name list during their campaign:

  • 1972: Democrats Terry Sanford, Fred Harris, Scoop (Henry) Jackson, George Wallace, and John Lindsay
  • 1976: Democrat Jimmy Carter
  • 1980: Republican Ronald Reagan
  • 1984: Democrats John Glenn and Jesse Jackson
  • 1988: Democrat Paul Simon
  • 1992: Democrat Bill Clinton
  • 1996: Republicans Lamar Alexander, Morry (Maurice) Taylor, and Pete Wilson
  • 2000: Democrat Bill (William) Bradley
  • 2004: Democrats Bob Graham, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, and John Kerry
  • 2008: Republicans Duncan Hunter and Ron Paul and Democrat Hillary Clinton
  • 2016: Republicans Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, and Lindsey Graham
  • 2020: Democrats Tim Ryan, John Delaney, and Elizabeth Warren
  • 2024: Republican Tim Scott and Democrat Robert Kennedy, Jr.

More than a dozen other candidates once had a surname that was previously used as a first name, but no longer made the SSA’s list during the year of their campaign:

  • 1976: Republican Gerald Ford and Democrats Jerry Brown and Robert Byrd
  • 1980: Democrat Ted Kennedy and Republican-turned-independent John Anderson
  • 2000: Republican Bob Smith
  • 2012: Republicans Rick Perry and (eventual Libertarian nominee) Gary Johnson
  • 2016: Republican Chris Christie and Democrats Bernie Sanders and Jim Webb
  • 2020: Democrat Cory Booker and Republican Mark Sanford
  • 2024: Republican Larry Elder

Three candidates later saw their last name appear on the SSA’s list of first names years after their candidacy:

  • 1972: Republican Richard Nixon (with ‘Nixon’ first appearing in 2011)
  • 1980: Republican Howard Baker (2018)
  • 1992: Democrat Douglas Wilder (2015)

Five other candidates had last names that appeared on the list at the time of their campaign, but their first name did not: Republican Herman Cain in 2012, Republican Rand Paul in 2016, Democrats Deval Patrick and Kamala Harris in 2020, and Nikki Haley in 2024.

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  1. Flickertail-Pembina on May 12, 2023 at 8:31 pm

    The birth surname of “POTUS 42” is BLYTHE.

    The first name at birth of “38” is LESLIE, and his last name at birth is KING.

    • Dr Eric J Ostermeier on May 12, 2023 at 8:39 pm

      Indeed! Of course, Ford and Clinton each legally changed their names decades before their first campaign for elected office. If “Romney” was a bonafide first name, then tough decisions would have to be made if “Mitt” or “Willard” were used as his first for the purposes of this little study.

  2. John Chessant on May 12, 2023 at 9:34 pm

    Perhaps if Tim Scott wins the GOP nomination he should choose former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker as his running-mate so as to form a Scott/Walker ticket. Of course, if you take their first names instead then it’d be a Tim/Scott ticket. The lawn signs write themselves… (A joke I previously made in 2016 with Rand Paul and Paul Ryan, the then-immediate past nominee for VP.)

    Tim Scott is also one of two people with the surname Scott currently serving in the U.S. Senate, the other being Rick Scott (R-Fla.). Other recent Senate surname pairs include:

    *1965-83: Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) and Harry F. Byrd, Jr. (D/I-Va.)
    *1973-77: Hugh Scott (R-Pa.) and William L. Scott (R-Va.)
    *1975-76: Philip Hart (D-Mich.) and Gary Hart (D-Colo.)
    *1978: Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) and Paul G. Hatfield (D-Mont.)
    *1997-2003: Bob C. Smith (R-N.H.) and Gordon H. Smith (R-Ore.)
    *2001-13: Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
    *2003-05: Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
    *2009-15: Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.)
    *2010-13: Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.)
    *2011-15: Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)

    I believe this is the complete list going back half a century. Some close calls over this period:

    *1973-1975: Peter Dominick (R-Colo.) and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.)
    *1989-2001: John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.)
    *1987-2002: Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) and Bob Graham (D-Fla.) [and Rod Grams (R-Minn.), 1995-2001]
    *1997-2003: Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) and Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.)
    *1997-2017: Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.)
    *2009-2011: Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)

    There were also three senators named Humphrey in 1978-79, and two named Kirk in 2010, but they didn’t overlap. Some surname trios I found:

    *1940-45: Elmer Thomas (D-Okla.), Elbert D. Thomas (D-Utah), John W. Thomas (R-Ida.)
    *1950-53: Howard Alexander Smith (R-N.J.), Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine), Willis Smith (D-N.C.)
    *1960-63: Russell B. Long (D-La.), Oren E. Long (D-Hi.), Edward V. Long (D-Mo.)

    If we go further back, we find the interesting case of John H. Mitchell (R-Ore.), who served with John I. Mitchell (R-Pa.) from 1885 to 1887, and then with John L. Mitchell (D-Wis.) from 1893 to 1897. The three senators John Mitchell seem to be all but forgotten today, as the name John Mitchell in U.S. politics is most closely associated with John N. Mitchell, the Nixon-era attorney-general and campaign chair.

    • Geoff Gamble on May 13, 2023 at 7:20 am

      – 1959~1965 : Harry Byrd (sr; former governor) and “Bobby” Byrd

      Tom Udall (b 1948) and Mark Udall (b 1950) are first cousins, son of Stewart and Morris, respectively (both were first elected to the House in 1998 and Senate in 2008; the younger cousin lost in ’14 in part due to having conducted a desultory campaign).

      • John Chessant on May 13, 2023 at 8:53 pm

        Indeed. I can think of a few other examples of surname pairs that were in fact related to each other:

        *1813-14: George M. Bibb (DR-Ky.) and William Wyatt Bibb (DR-Ga.) [they were first cousins, both grandsons of a John Bibb (1703–1769)]
        *1946-47: Robert A. Taft, Sr. (R-Ohio) and Kingsley A. Taft (R-Ohio) [sixth cousins twice removed, best I can tell; both direct descendants of the original Robert Taft, Sr. (1640–1725)]
        *1965-68: Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.) [brothers]

        Kingsley A. Taft served just two months in the Senate, winning a special election in November 1946 on the same day John W. Bricker won the regular election for the next term in the seat. Only a few surname pairs lasted shorter than this:

        *1844-45: Ephraim H. Foster (W-Tenn.) and Henry A. Foster (D-N.Y.)
        *1913: Joseph F. Johnston (D-Ala.) and Rienzi Melville Johnston (D-Tex.)
        *1895: James F. Wilson (R-Iowa) and John L. Wilson (R-Wash.)

        In two of these cases, the surname pair encompassed the entire term of the more junior member, who had been appointed to fill a vacancy until the state legislature elected a new senator. In the last case, the legislature in Washington state failed to elect, keeping the seat vacant for nearly an entire congress until seating John L. Wilson just two weeks before the end of James F. Wilson’s term.

        On the opposite side of the spectrum, two surname pairs persisted for three full terms:

        *1885-1903: John Percival Jones (R-Nev.) and James Kimbrough Jones (D-Ark.)
        *1933-1951: Elmer Thomas (D-Okla.) and Elbert D. Thomas (D-Utah)

        with the Byrd/Byrd, Jr. pair (1965-83) falling just short. Other pairs that persisted for two full terms include:

        *1875-87: John Percival Jones (R-Nev.) and Charles W. Jones (D-Fla.)
        *1909-21: John Walter Smith (D-Md.) and Ellison D. Smith (D-S.C.)
        *1959-70: John J. Williams (R-Del.) and Harrison A. Williams (D-N.J.)
        *1959-71: Milton Young (R-N.D.) and Stephen M. Young (D-Ohio)
        *2001-13: Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)

        Some more surname trios:

        *1848-49: Henry S. Johnson (W-La.), Reverdy Johnson (W-Md.), Herschel V. Johnson (D-Ga.)
        *1885-87: John Percival Jones (R-Nev.), Charles W. Jones (D-Fla.), James Kimbrough Jones (D-Ark.)

        Incumbent U.S. senators named Smith have formed a quintuplet on two different occasions:

        *1805-07: Israel Smith (DR-Vt.), Samuel Smith (DR-Md.), John Smith (DR-Ohio), John Smith (DR-N.Y.), Daniel Smith (DR-Tenn.)
        *1912-19: William Alden Smith (R-Mich.), John Walter Smith (D-Md.), Ellison D. Smith (D-S.C.), M. Hoke Smith (D-Ga.), Marcus A. Smith (D-Ariz.)

        • John Chessant on May 13, 2023 at 8:59 pm

          (Mr. Smith goes to Washington indeed.)

  3. John Chessant on May 22, 2023 at 8:14 pm

    Now that Tim Scott has officially entered the race:

    Since his fellow South Carolinian, Lindsey Graham, briefly ran for president in 2016, South Carolina joins Colorado as the only other state with two (current or former) presidential candidates in its U.S. Senate delegation.

    The number of current or former presidential candidates in the U.S. Senate in total is now 13: Romney (2008, 2012), Cruz, Graham, Paul, Rubio (all 2016), Sanders (2016, 2020), Bennet, Booker, Gillibrand, Hickenlooper, Klobuchar, Warren (all 2020), and Scott (2024). It is likely Scott will be the only sitting U.S. senator to run for president in 2024; the only other one even purportedly considering a 2024 campaign as of this writing is Joe Manchin.

    In addition, Scott’s campaign launch means that South Carolina’s 1st congressional district has had two consecutive U.S. House members run for president. Scott served that district from 2011 to 2013, when he resigned upon being appointed to the U.S. Senate; he was succeeded by Mark Sanford, who was later a 2020 presidential candidate.

    While several U.S. Senate seats and governorships have had the distinction of having two consecutive officeholders run for president, only a few offices below that level have as well.

    The following states have had two consecutive governors run for president, listed with the year of the transition:

    *California, 1975: Ronald Reagan (1968, 1976, 1980, 1984) and Jerry Brown (1976, 1980, 1992)
    *Florida, 1979: Reubin Askew (1984) and Bob Graham (2004)
    *Massachusetts, 1991: Michael Dukakis (1988) and Bill Weld (2020)
    *Texas, 2000: George W. Bush (2000, 2004) and Rick Perry (2012, 2016)
    *New Mexico, 2003: Gary Johnson (2012) and Bill Richardson (2008)
    *Massachusetts, 2007: Mitt Romney (2008, 2012) and Deval Patrick (2020)

    The same list for U.S. Senate seats:

    *Minnesota (class 2), 1964: Hubert Humphrey (1968, 1972) and Walter Mondale (1984)
    *Minnesota (class 1), 1971: Eugene McCarthy (1968, 1972, 1992) and Hubert Humphrey (1968, 1972)
    *Indiana (class 1), 1977: Vance Hartke (1972) and Richard Lugar (1996)
    *Indiana (class 3), 1981: Birch Bayh (1976) and Dan Quayle (2000)
    *Massachusetts (class 2), 1985: Paul Tsongas (1992) and John Kerry (2004)
    *Tennessee (class 2), 1985: Howard Baker (1980) and Al Gore (1988, 2000)
    *Arizona (class 3), 1987: Barry Goldwater (1964) and John McCain (2000, 2008)
    *Connecticut (class 1), 1989: Lowell Weicker (1980) and Joe Lieberman (2004)
    *South Carolina (class 2), 2003: Strom Thurmond (1948) and Lindsey Graham (2016)
    *Tennessee (class 2), 2003: Fred Thompson (2008) and Lamar Alexander (1996, 2000)
    *New York (class 1), 2009: Hillary Clinton (2008, 2016) and Kirsten Gillibrand (2020)
    *Utah (class 1), 2019: Orrin Hatch (2000) and Mitt Romney (2008, 2012)

    [Note: Thurmond, Alexander, and Romney won their Senate seats after their presidential campaigns, and did not run for president again during or after their Senate tenures.]

    As far as I’m aware, just one other U.S. House district has produced consecutive presidential candidates: Ohio’s 17th congressional district. James Traficant (1988) served the district from 1985 to 2002, when he was expelled from the House after his conviction on corruption charges; he was succeeded [despite his independent candidacy from prison] by Tim Ryan (2020), who served from 2003 to 2023.

    Three consecutive mayors of New York City ran for president: Rudy Giuliani (2008), Michael Bloomberg (2020), and Bill de Blasio (2020).

    The only other office that fits the criterion in the direct primary era is that of the attorney-general of California. Jerry Brown (1976, 1980, 1992) served from 2007 to 2011, and Kamala Harris (2020) served from 2011 to 2017; although, of course, Brown made his presidential runs prior to becoming state attorney-general.

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