The Fix’s 10 best political nicknames

August 30, 2013

Here at the The Fix, we love a good nickname. And lucky for us, politics is chock-full of them.

Over the years, politicians all across the country have come to be known by nicknames that speak volumes about their personality, style, background or demeanor. And in some cases, the nickname all but displaces a pol's birth name.

It was difficult, but with the help of some terrific input on Twitter, we've pared what could well be a book full of great nicknames down to the 10 best. Have thoughts of your own on what we missed? Head on over to the comments section or tweet us using the hashtag #fixnicknames.

Without further ado, here are the top 10, in alphabetical order:

"Bubba/Slick Willie": Bill Clinton's twin nicknames both make this list because they came to define his style. Bubba came about because of the Arkansas Democrat's Southern charm, while Slick Willie was a tribute to his ability to talk himself out of a jam (which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective). For more on the latter nickname, check out Kevin Merida's 1998 story about it.


Bill Clinton (Danny Johnston/AP)

"Governor Moonbeam": California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) can thank Chicago columnist Mike Royko, who in 1976 said that Brown was attracting “the moonbeam vote,” meaning California's New Age crowd. It stuck, even as Royko later pleaded for people to stop using it.


California Gov. Jerry Brown (D)  (Matt Whittaker/Reuters)

"Happy" Chandler: It doesn't get simpler than this. A.B. Chandler became "Happy" because of his jovial nature. Chandler, the former Major League Baseball commissioner and grandfather of former congressman Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), served as senator and governor of the Bluegrass State before leaving office in 1959.

"Mudcat" Saunders: The only political consultant to make this list is David "Mudcat" Saunders, a former top adviser to presidential candidate John Edwards (D). Mudcat is a great nickname for both politics and baseball.

"Rahmbo": If you've seen the "Rambo" films from the 1980s and observed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's take-no-prisoners political style over the years, this nickname makes complete sense. Emanuel, the former congressman and White House chief of staff, is said to have once mailed a dead fish to a pollster who irked him.

"Snarlin' " Arlen: Sen. Arlen Specter had a knack for getting under his colleagues' skin, and it didn't matter what party you belonged to (or what party he belonged to, having switched twice). Snarlin' Arlen was at his snarlin'-est during Supreme Court confirmation hearings — especially Clarence Thomas's, when he interrogated Anita Hill.

"Soapy" Williams: If we were to tell you that he was called "Soapy" because he was an heir to the Mennen family brand of personal care products, would you believe us? Well, you should. Soapy's full name is Gerhard Mennen Williams, and he served 12 years as governor of Michigan.

"The Governator": This is what happens when Hollywood collides with politics. When action movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California in 2002, it was only a matter of time before his soon-to-be new job title and his role in the "Terminator" films would be melded. There were even plans at one point for a "Governator" film. We still think this is a better nickname than "Bennifer" or "Kimye."


Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) (Lisi Niesner/Reuters)

"Torch": Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) earned the nickname "Torch" not just because it's part of his last name, but also for his hard-charging, incendiary political style. Torricelli's career ended when he dropped out of his reelection bid in 2002 amid questions about his campaign's finances.

"Walkin' " Lawton Chiles: Lawton Chiles was a Democratic senator and governor of Florida who once walked 1,003 miles from Pensacola to Key West to attract attention for his Senate bid. It took him 91 (!) days. The cost may have been some sore feet, but it worked, and Chiles went on to serve nearly two decades in the upper chamber.

Correction: Torricelli was not convicted of any wrongdoing. This post has been corrected.

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