(Ed note: Pundits have begun to ask David Lehman to apply his trochaic theory of predicting election outcomes to the current slate of candidates, both Democrat and Republican. He first described the theory on the BAP blog in 2008 when his analysis favored Barack Obama. (It also favored Obama in 2012.) Find more about his theory here. Lehman's now classic interviews on the subject are pasted below. sdh)
What do Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan have in common?
Yes, all were presidents. But so were Dwight D. Eisenhower and George Bush.
No, what the nine presidents mentioned have in common is that each of their names is a double trochee. That's right -- nine of the last 16 presidents scan their names to the tune of "Okla-homa." A trochee is the inverse of an iamb; in the former, there's a strong stress followed by a weak stress (e.g., "Harry").
Your chances of getting elected president go up if your name conforms to this pattern -- or if, like Franklin D. Roosevelt, your scansion is extraordinary and metrically favorable.
In the current electoral climate, the clearest winner is Bernie Sanders, whose name is a classic double trochee (even if you spell out his first name -- Bernard -- as long as you pronounce it as the British do, with the accent on the first syllable). Bobby Jindall would also score high but only if (1) he were a viable candidate and (2) you accept Bobby as a legitimate first name. The counter-example of Jimmy Carter will be offered, but it might be argued that his resort to a nickname instead of the proper "James Earl Carter" may help account for his failed presidency. Well, OK, how viable a candidate is Bernie? I don't know. I'm not really political.
Probably the most interesting candidate, from the point of view of metrical theory, is Carly Fiorina. Her name translates as a trochee followed by a dactyl and a trochee. It is similar to Franklin Roosevelt if you leave out the D (but you can't).
Marco Rubio has a trochee followed by a dactyl, also an interesting variant.
According to trochaic theory, Donald Trump's chances would improve considerably if he changed his name to Donald Trumpet.
The guys with one-syllable first names (Mike, Ted, Scott, Chris) have little chance. Rand Paul -- two spondees (two strong accents back to back) -- taps into the George Bush rhythm but without the obvious advantages that Jeb Bush has. But what is Jeb's real first name? And why has he dodged the issue?
If this is equivocal, well, it's early in the process. May we remind all that trochaic theory favored Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012? -- DL