When I hear the name Willard it invokes memories of a rat from the original 1971 horror movie that starred Ernest Borgnine. A close second is longtime NBC personality Willard Scott, who makes a lot of centenarians happy weekday mornings by mentioning their birthday on national television.
How about the most famous Willard of all?
According to a Vanity Fair/60 Minutes survey, 44 percent of Americans don’t know Mitt Romney’s first name. Twenty percent thought “Mitt” was his first name, 18 percent thought Mitt was short for “Mitchell,” and 8 percent considered his first name might be “Milton.”
Get the kicker from this poll; 2 percent answered Mittens. Six percent of respondents actually did know Willard was the former Massachusetts’ governor’s first name.
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I suppose Willard decided to go by something not as unusual, like his middle name: Mitt.
I bring up the ambiguity surrounding Romney’s name to make the larger point -- that despite all the media attention, it is way too early to declare a Republican nominee. There are a lot of unknowns and the changing dynamics are reflected in the latest polling.
By virtue of a predicted New Hampshire landslide victory, Mitt is 800 miles away mollycoddling across South Carolina. That’s smart because he’s barely clinging to a lead in two polls issued Friday morning.
Because the moderate Romney didn’t realize a single Southern state victory four years ago, showing poorly in South Carolina with a fourth place finish in 2008, he’s working extra-hard this cycle to demonstrate he’s an enticing alternative to President Obama’s weak management style.
Romney has a lot of convincing to do across the Deep South to help modify strong convictions held by evangelicals about his Mormon beliefs. Basically, he needs to prove he’s mainstream and not a fire-breathing heathen.
Last October, Dr. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church Dallas, Texas, announced his support for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. In his endorsement of Perry, the theologian suggested this election is about character, ideology and the future direction of our country, more than aptitude.
Early Tuesday morning, while the furnaces were being stoked in Iowa’s bitterly cold caucus halls, Jeffress offered an op-ed piece that was posted on Fox television’s website.
Although Jeffress didn’t mention Romney by name, he did suggest voters shouldn’t settle on “one” contender that is “a Mormon candidate who has been all over the map in his beliefs about abortion and same-sex marriage.”
Based on previous Republican primaries, it is clear most voters select their nominee using a wide prism based on a candidate’s intellect, social values, business acumen and desire to improve and protect our culture.
As of yet, none of the contenders have created much excitement for me, but I’m not persuaded by the notion that Rick Perry is the only trustworthy candidate to protect our culture, and I don’t subscribe to the theory that Willard, um, Mitt is the only candidate who can defeat President Obama.
I’ve got eight weeks to study, watch and decide. I trust like minded, thoughtful conservatives will do the same.
Isn’t it interesting in each election cycle we hear that this particular presidential choice is the most crucial for America’s future? I first voted for Ronald Reagan 31 years ago. Even then the mantra was that the 1980 election was the most important ever. The truth is, every presidential election has an air of gravitas.
Every federal election cycle I’ve been involved in is about “character and ideology and the future direction of our country. “
Kenny Burgamy serves as a marketing consultant and is co-host of the Kenny B. Charles E., TV, radio and Internet program.