The Washington Post

What’s the name on their birth certificate? Not Rick Perry, Connie Mack, or Mitt Romney

Meet Governor James Richard Perry (R-TX), Congressman Cornelius Harvey McGillicuddy IV (R-FL), and Republican presidential hopeful Willard Romney. (Getty/Wire Image/Associated Press)

We’re pretty excited about James Perry entering the GOP presidential race, which should liven up a slow August. We still can’t decide whether he’s got better hair than Willard Romney.

A rose by another name . . . blah blah blah . . . but candidates are a different story. You’d think that the election of Barack Obama would have closed the name debate, but many of America’s leading politicians tweak their birth name to create the perfect moniker.

Which is how James Richard Perry became Texas Gov. Rick Perry instead of, say, Jim Perry or J.R. Perry (so “Dallas!”) or Dick Perry. And why Willard Mitt Romney — named after his father’s best friend, hotel magnate J. Willard Marriott, and Chicago Bears quarterback Milton Romney — downsized to Mitt Romney. (We totally understand: Mitt is shorter, cooler and probably a safer choice on the school playground.)

Others better known by their middle name: Presidents Hiram Ulysses Grant, Stephen Grover Cleveland, Thomas Woodrow Wilson and vice president James Danforth “Dan” Quayle.

Actors change their names all the time, but politicians modify their birth names to project a more folksy, accessible feel: John, Robert and Edward Kennedy became Jack, Bobby and Ted; Newton Leroy Gingrich picked Newt. John Ellis Bush is better known (and likely more electable) as Jeb Bush — his first name is his initials. John Edwards, on the other hand, wanted a more upscale feel than Johnny Reid Edwards, the name on his birth records.

Former Florida Gov. John Ellis Bush. (Steve Mitchell/Associated Press)

It’s not as if Mack had any choice in the matter: The name has been passed down for four generations; his great-grandfather, a baseball legend, was dubbed “Connie Mack” because newspapers couldn’t fit the full name in headlines.

“I’m proud of what my father [former Sen. Connie Mack] has done, what my great-grandfather did,” Mack told us Monday. “The name is associated with very good people.”

Cornelius Harvey McGillicuddy is still his legal name on his driver’s license and personal passport; Connie Mack is on the ballot and his congressional ID. “When I was little, I recall a few time when I heard my mother say ‘Cornelius’ and I knew I was in trouble.”

There was really no question what name Mack would give his now 8-year-old son: Cornelius McGillicuddy V (known as “Cinco de Macko”). But could he run — and win — with it in this day and age?

“If Boehner could be elected with that name, I think McGillicuddy is just fine,” said Mack with a laugh.


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