Presidential first-name trend gets Trump’d
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From Hillary to Jeb(!), the 2016 campaign has seen several presidential candidates try to get on a first-name basis with voters, but the GOP front-runner is sticking to formalities.

Unlike other White House hopefuls, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens 2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' MORE isn’t slapping “Donald” on campaign gear or encouraging supporters to refer to him by his first name.


Ron Bonjean, a Washington-based Republican strategist, says there’s good reason for Trump to employ his surname on the campaign trail.

“ ‘Trump’ is a household name, well-recognized by Americans for years because of his celebrity status, as well as his hosting ‘The Apprentice,’ ” Bonjean tells ITK. “It would be political malpractice for him to call himself ‘Donald’ or ‘Don.’ It wouldn’t make any sense. ‘Trump’ is recognized around the world.”

In press conferences and at rallies, the real estate mogul’s staunchest supporters typically shout “Trump,” and many journalists frequently — and his staff nearly unanimously — address him as “Mr. Trump.”

It’s a marked difference in an election season with an unusual number of first-name candidates. 

Jeb Bush, who bowed out of the race last month, famously emblazoned his campaign swag with “Jeb!” Supporters of Bernie SandersBernie Sanders2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Sanders doubles down on Bolivia 'coup,' few follow suit Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul MORE have coined the phrase “Feel the Bern” to root on the Democratic candidate. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzLawmakers spar over surveillance flight treaty with Russia Senators voice support for Iran protesters but stop short of taking action Prisons chief: FBI investigating whether 'criminal enterprise' played role in Epstein death MORE’s campaign
uses a play on the words “trusted” and “Ted” to promote his White House run.

Despite suspending his bid Tuesday, Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate passes legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters Senators voice support for Iran protesters but stop short of taking action McConnell urges Trump to voice support for Hong Kong protesters MORE’s campaign is still selling “Marco” hoodies in its online shop.

And Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats ask judge for quick ruling on McGahn subpoena Hillary Clinton: 'Every day Stephen Miller remains in the White House is an emergency' The Memo: Centrists change tone of Democratic race MORE’s campaign store offers countless knickknacks featuring her first name, such as “Hillary for America” banners and “Hillary 2016” spirit jerseys.

For those candidates, John Tantillo says, first names make sense because “it makes them more relatable.”

The branding expert, who’s known as “The Marketing Doctor,” explains: “Every personality brand has to be authentic. As I like to say, ‘To thy own brand be true.’ There are people, there are personalities that are best served by their first name. For Trump, it’s probably better that he use his last name.”

Other candidates can certainly get a boost from their first names. Tantillo says for 74-year-old Sanders, using “Bernie” is “a way of bridging the age gap.” For Clinton, “what she needed to do was differentiate herself from her husband,” he explains.

First names can help candidates connect with voters, says Bonjean. 

“They’re trying to be more personable and relating to every American. So instead of using their full name, they’re using their first name as a way to make them much more informal and add warmth to their candidacy.  Trump doesn’t care about that. He’s going big.”

“If you go back to ‘The Donald’ or ‘Donald,’ I mean the association is what? Donald Duck?” asks Tantillo. The “People Buy Brands Not Companies” author says, “Maybe it’s me; maybe it’s not a strong name. Everybody’s familiar with Trump.” The last name, he says, “just keeps on reinforcing the brand.”

While Trump’s campaign didn’t respond to ITK’s requests for comment on his name preference, experts say the former reality TV host’s last name can even give his candidacy a bit of a mystique.

“That’s the brilliance of it,” Tantillo says. “There’s a little dissidence there, because this is the so-called buffoon or the so-called nonpresidential person who wants to be called Mr. Trump. So he could argue, ‘What do you mean I’m not presidential? They’re not presidential! They refer to themselves by their first name!’ He’s just so good at this public relations effort.”

“The campaign is another product of the Trump brand,” Bonjean says.

Asked if after 2016, any other candidate can get away with using just one name in politics, Bonjean rattles off some single-name celebrities with a laugh.

“Let’s see: Prince, Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Madonna,” Bonjean says.

“This is a definitely a one-of-a-kind experience unless someone else steps forward that has a last name or a singular name that has such recognition.”