I don’t know that many people who have changed their names, so it’s surprising to me that there are so many presidents and aspirants to the top spot who have changed theirs, usually related to daddy issues.
5. Gerald Ford: Ford was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr., but his parents split up two weeks after he was born when his father, who had a history of abuse, threatened at knifepoint to kill his wife and new son. When Ford’s mother remarried, he became Gerald Rudolff Ford, Jr.
4. Bill Clinton: Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe III several months after his father’s death. His mother married Roger Clinton several years later. He proved to be an abusive alcoholic who beat his wife and son Roger Clinton, Jr. Bill repeatedly intervened physically to protect his mother and half-brother from his step-father. When Roger Clinton, Sr. straightened himself out and stopped the physical abuse, Bill legally changed his name to William Jefferson Clinton as a gesture of detente with his step-father.
3. Jesse Jackson: Born Jesse Louis Burns to Helen Burns, a 16 year old girl, his father was a much older (and married) man, Noah Louis Robinson. His mother married Charles Henry Jackson a few years later, and Jesse adopted Jackson’s last name years later, as a teen.
2. Newt Gingrich: Born Newton LeRoy McPherson to a 16 year old single mother who left her husband one week after they were married because he hit her. When he was three years old, his mother remarried and his step-father adopted him.
1. Hillary Rodham Clinton: Born Hillary Diane Rodham, she began dating Bill Clinton while the two were in law school. Rodham was ambitious and wanted to seek a political career by working in Washington after graduation. However, Bill Clinton wanted to marry her and, while she rejected marriage, she did follow him to Arkansas, where they continued dating. Eventually, she accepted his proposals but she retained the name Hillary Rodham, deciding to not adopt her husband’s last name in order to keep their professional lives separate. When Clinton was defeated in 1980 when he ran for re-election as Arkansas governor, some advisers felt it was in part due to Hillary’s feminist image. At that point, she began dying her hair blonde, and took the last name of “Clinton”, sometimes referring to herself as “Mrs. Bill Clinton”. She continued using that name until after her husband was elected President of the United States. Shortly after he became president, she announced that she would like to be called “Hillary Rodham Clinton,” with “Rodham” being a middle name and her last name still being just “Clinton.” Thereafter, the press frequently referred to her as Hillary Rodham Clinton. She has not ever changed this position. However, when she ran for senate in 2000 and then for president in 2008, she seems to have been referred to usually as Hillary Clinton. Her signs tended to say “Hillary for Senate” or “Hillary for President,” and her campaign’s website was www.hillaryclinton.com
Extra (sort of): Barack Hussein Obama II, who met his biological father, Barack Obama Sr., only on one occasion as a boy (other than in infancy), long struggled with his feelings associated with his name, and for a time went by the name Barry Obama. When he lived in Indonesia from age 5-10, at some point his mother and step-father listed his name as Barry Soetoro. However, that was never legally his name and he chose to go by his original last name when he returned to the US to live with his grandparents while his mother and step-father remained in Indonesia. Some conspiracy theorists have made much of these name variants, but as can be seen above, many presidential candidates have had their name changed, or changed their name by their own choice, at various points.
FYI: as someone who is from Pennsylvania, I have to comment that I learned while writing this that Gingrich, Santorum, and Ron Paul were all born and raised in Pennsylvania. Only one president is from PA–James Buchanan. So we’re tied with Hawaii for natal place of presidents, and it’s a sure bet that we’ll remain tied after the November election.