Presidential Elections - Can I Buy a Vowel? Obama, Adams, Eisenhower, Oh My!

Conejo Valley Guide generally does not cover politics as we like to focus on things to do throughout Ventura County and adjacent areas. And this post really is not political in nature. It is more along the lines of "useless yet potentially amusing information."

Barack Obama is running for re-election in 2012. If he loses, this would be the first time since 1828 that a President whose last name starts with a vowel loses a re-election. After one term in office, John Quincy Adams (like Obama, a Harvard graduate) lost to Andrew Jackson, considered the first Democratic President. Also notable (ok maybe not) is that Obama honored another Quincy...Quincy Jones, with a National Medal of Arts in 2010. The Obama/Quincy connection.

If Obama wins his re-election, he'll follow in the footsteps of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, who demolished Adlai Stevenson with 86% of the electoral vote. Obama also has something in common with Eisenhower. He received his bachelor's degree from Columbia University in 1983 whereas Eisenhower was President of Columbia from 1948 to 1953.

Truth be told, there have not been a lot of Presidential candidates whose last names begin with a vowel. In fact, while 19% of the letters in the alphabet are vowels, less than 10% of those running for President in U.S. history had last names starting with A, E, I, O or U. Those include Obama, Eisenhower, J.Q. Adams, his pop John Adams and dad's second cousin Samuel Adams, and don't forget Independent candidate John B. Anderson who took 6.6% of the popular vote in 1980.

John Quincy AdamsLet's look at the track record of vowels in U.S. presidential elections:

  • George Washington beat John Adams in 1789 and 1792.
  • John Adams beat Samuel Adams (and others) in 1796 (marking the only time last-name-begins-with-a-vowel candidates ran head-to-head)
  • Jefferson beat John Adams in 1800
  • John Quincy Adams beat Andrew Jackson in 1824 but the reverse happened in 1828
  • Eisenhower beat Stevenson in 1952/1956
  • Obama beat McCain in 2008

Ignoring Anderson's independent run against Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in 1980, so far the vowels have it, 5 to 4.

If Obama loses his re-election campaign, this would mark the first time a Democrat whose last name begins with a vowel loses a Presidential election. Then again, Obama is the ONLY Democratic candidate in history to run whose last name begins with a vowel.

With Mitt Romney the presumed Republican candidate, this indeed will be a consonant vs vowel election year.