- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008

Perhaps the nation will see some baby “Baracks” arriving over the next few months no matter who wins the presidential election.

Sen. Barack Obama’s name brand recognition has much currency these days as Americans mull over the appeal of the Illinois Democrat’s name for their own precious offspring.

Barack has been crowned Name of the Year by Laura Wattenberg, creator of Baby Name Wizard, a popular online trend-tracking tool for parents-to-be at IVillage.com, offering instant advice in the crucial baby-name derby.

“This is no political statement, just a statement on names in our culture. Senator Barack Hussein Obama is leading American political names into uncharted territory. If he should win the presidential election, his name would be a landmark for a major party nominee. Already it’s started to create the unprecedented spectacle of first name as a campaign issue,” noted Mrs. Wattenberg, who also authored the 2005 book “The Baby Name Wizard.”

Barack has yet to appear on the official roster at the Social Security Administration, which charts the popularity of boys’ and girls’ names from year to year, based on birth-certificate statistics.

Findings from the federal agency are not particularly promising for a certain New York Democrat, however. In the current top-1,000 names for girls, Hillary weighs in at 982. A well-known Arizona Republican can feel some satisfaction. On the top 1,000 names for boys, John is at No. 20.

Some wonder whether Barack would play well on the playground.

“Naming babies. Is there a Barack-o-rama in the future?” asked Karen Murphy, a writer for Strollerderby, a blog for new parents.

“Barack — better than Obama, but too many potential rhyming possibilities. Who wants their name in a limerick?”

She also vetoed Hillary, Mitt and McCain, waggishly observing, “Not unless you follow it up with his brother, McAble.”

Politically engaged Americans approve of the name Barack, at least according to a CBS News survey, which asked respondents whether Mr. Obama’s name troubled them because it was “foreign sounding, reminds them of Osama bin Laden or terrorism.” The poll of 1,072 voters found that 58 percent said the name would not pose a problem to them.

One 13-year-old already is a Barack test case.

Noah Barack Bunnell of New London, N.H., was named — well, partially named, anyway — in honor of Mr. Obama. Parents Deborah Schachter and Tom Bunnell were inspired in 1994 after Mr. Obama — then a law student — became the first black to be named president of the Harvard Law Review.

“Whenever anyone talks about him and I hear Barack, I think, ‘Oh, that’s my middle name, too,’ “ young Noah told the Concord Monitor. “That’s cool that I’m named after somebody who’s famous and maybe someday could be president.”