A candidate by any other middle name

What’s in a name? Not much it seems for a U.S. presidential hopeful whose first name is Hillary.

On her U.S. Senate Web site, she is New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. But on her 2008 presidential campaign site, she is Hillary Clinton.

Does she have a preference? “No,” campaign spokesman Phil Singer said on Friday.

It’s not just an Internet thing. The candidate used Rodham on her official campaign forms, but the name is missing from her campaign bumper stickers, and she is often introduced as just Hillary Clinton.

Her campaign shrugs off any suggestion she has dropped the maiden name to consciously appeal to conservative voters.

“The press spends more time thinking about this topic than we — or the voters — do,” Singer insisted.

At various points in U.S. history, American women have kept their maiden names as a sign of independence.

After Hillary Rodham married Bill Clinton in 1975, she stuck with her maiden name, saying it was partly a gesture to be herself while remaining committed to her husband.

“Because I knew I had my own professional interests and did not want to create any confusion or conflict of interest with my husband’s public career, it made perfect sense to me to continue using my own name,” she wrote in her book “Living History.”

After Bill Clinton lost his 1980 re-election bid as Arkansas governor, she wrote that supporters told her that some people were uncomfortable with her decision to use her maiden name and that it had had an impact on the voting.

She decided then to go by Hillary Rodham Clinton. It may well have helped. Her husband recaptured the governor’s mansion in 1982.

Given her vast exposure during Clinton’s eight years in the White House and her more than six years in the U.S. Senate, most voters may well already have formed opinions without regard for what she calls herself, experts say.

“Very few people will be influenced by that, their position on Hillary Clinton is fixed,” said University of Virginia politics professor Larry Sabato. “It’s hard to come across people who don’t have a fixed opinion of her, love or hate.”

Her campaign Web site is www.hillaryclinton.com, but the headline across the top reads simply: “Hillary for President.”