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With 3 kids named after presidents, family weighs options for baby No. 4

A different kind of presidential contest is underway in the home of this Virginia family, who lives a mile outside the nation's capital.
/ Source: TODAY

Forget Trump and Clinton. The frontrunners in this presidential race are Kennedy, Reagan, Pierce and Monroe.

Those are the top names being considered for the baby girl Jennifer and Jesse Nielsen are expecting next month.

The child will be their fourth and ultimately share the name of a president, just like their first three children — a boy and two girls: (Ulysses S.) Grant, 4; (James) Madison, 3; and (William) McKinley, 1.

The Nielsen family with their three kids: Grant, Madison and McKinley.Kate Walker / Hudson Street Family Photo

“We thought when we told people that we were having another child, they’d be like, ‘Oh my god, you’re having a fourth kid!’ But instead, they were like, ‘What are you going to name it?’” said Jennifer Nielsen, 33.

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The Virginia couple didn't originally plan on having a fourth child. Similarly, they didn’t plan on having their other kids share the names of presidents. When their firstborn arrived, they both simply agreed upon a name they liked: Grant.

“There was no history of family names or saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to name all of our kids presidents,’” Nielsen said. “It just happened to be the only name my husband and I said ‘yes’ to, so we just went with it and didn’t look back.”

But they did have a backup name, in case the baby was a girl: Madison. So more than a year later, when their daughter was born, there was no question what her name would be. But again, their choice had nothing to do with presidents — at least, fundamentally.

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“We both went to James Madison University for college, and we liked the name,” Nielsen said of the Virginia school named after the nation's fourth president.

'There was no history of family names or saying, "Hey, we’re going to name all of our kids presidents,"' said Jennifer Nielsen.Kate Walker / Hudson Street Family Photo

When their third child came along, people began pointing out that the couple's first two children had the same names as presidents and were curious whether they planned to continue the theme. Nielsen said she actually favored the name Scarlett at the time, but got some backlash over her choice.

“Everyone seemed disappointed that we weren’t going to name her after a president,” she said. So the couple looked through the president’s list and agreed upon McKinley.

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With three names out of contention, that leaves the couple with 36 remaining options, since five of the remaining presidents shared surnames with a predecessor, including George W. Bush.

Once word spread about their newest addition, friends they hadn't heard from in years suddenly emerged via email or on Facebook with congratulations — and a recommendation.

The most popular suggestions have been (Ronald) Reagan and (John F.) Kennedy. The Nielsens also like (Franklin) Pierce and (James) Monroe, the two names that round out their top four choices.

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Others have suggested (Zachary) Taylor, (Jimmy) Carter or (Gerald) Ford. Nielsen said her older daughter favors (Theodore and Franklin D.) Roosevelt, but mainly because she wants to call the baby, “Rosie," which is currently her favorite name.

Political affiliation plays no role in their choice, nor do the events that shaped the president's tenure. President McKinley, for example, was assassinated.

“It’s mostly whether we like the name or not. It's really that simple,” she said.

Nielsen laughed while discussing the timing of her pregnancy, which landed in the middle of a surprisingly eventful presidential election year. Both she and her husband work as government contractors and make the most of where they live, in a Virginia suburb just a mile outside of Washington, D.C. She said all of the kids have visited the White House numerous times and know the link they share with its former occupants.

"They always ask, "When are we moving to the White House?"

Follow writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.