O.K., someone had to do it — literally analyze the two names on the GOP party ticket to see how that seemingly trivial factor might affect the outcome of the presidential election in November. The spelling of Pence’s last name probably didn’t have anything to do with Trump’s selection of Indiana Governor, Mike Pence, as his running mate, but it could make a difference at a subliminal level, especially in a tight race. At the Republican National Convention next week, Americans will see the two names lofted high in the air as the GOP party faithful officially nominate their presidential and vice-presidential candidates to represent them. The names, Trump and Pence, will be ubiquitous throughout the hall of the convention and throughout the rest of the election.
Both Trump and Pence have monosyllabic last names, which make the two names easy to fit on a campaign banner, a tee-shirt, a coffee mug, a party ticket button, or an advertisement. In fact, there is spare room to squeeze in a logo or a slogan. In addition, there is symmetry in the two names because each one has five letters. People like balance and harmony. There is a bonus in that the two names have the same letter “p” as a connective of sorts, linking the last letter of Trump to the first letter of Pence. Acoustically, Trump and Pence are short sounds that ping our eardrums without taxing our auditory nerves very much.
Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton is already at a disadvantage because her last name is two syllables in length and contains seven letters. Whomever she selects as a running mate will only increase her syllabic and lettered disadvantage.
Let’s face it. Most people have short attention spans. They like things that are short and sweet, including names. Celebrity names that are distilled down to one syllable are winners like Prince, Cher, and Sting. People don’t have the patience to listen to a politician drone on about some policy. They get “Trump/Pence” even if they don’t know exactly what the two of them stand for or how the two compare to their Democratic Party adversaries in terms of the issues.
Optics matter. Subconsciously, people are drawn to things that are simple. At least that is the initial impulse. Instinctively, we like to take the path of least resistance. A concise party ticket with two monosyllabic names satisfies that natural tendency.
Of course, most people are not as shallow as to actually vote based on the nomenclature of a particular party ticket and will drill farther down to see what the nominees of each party have to say on substantive issues. Nonetheless, it is the first impression that manifests itself vis-a-vis the brevity of the names and the symmetry of the names that offers a slight subliminal advantage, whether the observer perceives it or not.
Trump is not ashamed of taking credit for his achievements. Picking a vice president with a single-syllable last name like his own might be one of Trump’s unheralded accomplishments, even if he didn’t realize it at the time. If he or his staff considered the last name of a potential vice president candidate for the reasons discussed above, then that indicates either a scary degree of thoroughness or a very superficial selection process. Sometimes what’s in a name matters, whether it occurs to us or not.