A curious thing happened yesterday.
Public Policy Polling released its latest poll of presidential candidates in New Carolina. Donald Trump continued his steady surge to the front of the pack with 24%, Dr. Ben Carson earned second place with 14%, Jeb Bush got 13% and Ted Cruz finished fourth with 10%.
On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton held onto her monstrous lead with 55% to challenger Bernie Sanders’ 19%, and the rest of the Democrats’ results were negligible.
That’s not the curious part.
The curious part is that, buried on the 39th page of the 70-page poll results, an Independent candidate named “Deez Nuts” earned 9% of North Carolinians’ support in a hypothetical matchup between Nuts, Trump, and Clinton. The North Carolina poll followed two other PPP polls, in which Deez Nuts picked up 8% in Minnesota and 7% in Iowa.
It was everywhere. Deez Nuts began trending worldwide on Twitter Wednesday.
Of course, Nuts’ fledgling candidacy was too good to be true. The Daily Beast reported that Deez Nuts is actually 15-year-0ld Brady Olson, a sophomore at a high school in rural Iowa.
“When I heard about the Limberbutt McCubbins story, I realized I could [run],” Olson told the outlet, referring to the Democrat presidential candidate who happens to be a Kentucky house cat.
According to the Daily Beast, Olson filled out a Form 2 – an official statement of candidacy from the Federal Election Commission – and he was in, just like that. Olson reportedly contacted PPP polling specialist Jim Williams and requested to be included in the company’s Minnesota poll. When he garnered 7% of the vote, he was later included in Iowa and North Carolina.
According to the Guardian, there are 585 registered candidates for the 2016 presidential election, and Nuts isn’t the only one with a wacky name: there’s write-in candidate Buddy the Elf, Independent Sydneys Voluptuous Buttocks, Democrat President Emperor Caesar, and the unaffiliated Crawfish Crawfish.
But none of the other non-serious candidacies managed to pick up any support in PPP’s North Carolina poll. Even Lindsay Graham, a legitimate Republican candidate, has “literally no supporters” in the state, according to the poll.
So how did he do it? How did Deez Nuts, a 15-year-0ld high school sophomore, come out of nowhere to become the most successful Independent candidate since Ross Perot in 1996?
For one, it helps to have a name based on a popular Internet meme.
But Olson also appears to have a decent grasp of the mechanisms of federal election law.
“The U.S. would have to pass an amendment to take out Article 2,” Olson told the Daily Beast about why he thinks he could win the whole thing despite being 20 years too young to run. “But Congress wouldn’t do that – after being so embarrassed after losing to Deez Nuts.”
Still, Nuts isn’t just in it for the notoriety; if he was, he wouldn’t have created a campaign website with a list of concrete policy positions on everything from illegal immigration ( illegal immigrant “must be deported back to their country of origin and be ineligible for US citizenship in the future”), to foreign policy (“I support the work that John Kerry and the State Department did with the Iran nuclear deal”) to the economy (“I support giving corporations tax incentives for the sole purpose of creating jobs IN America TO Americans FOR Americans.”)
If nothing else, Olson’s “candidacy” appears to be the most convincing evidence yet that Americans from both establishment political parties have grown tired of the insiders in Washington who purport to stand up for the needs of the American people. In a way, it’s part of the same grassroots populism that’s fueling Trump’s, and, to a lesser extent, Sanders’ campaigns; the belief that establishment candidates have had their chances, and the American people have found them wanting.
Deez Nuts has his share of problems headed into the election; in addition to being underage, 81% of North Carolinians don’t know enough about him to say whether they view him favorably or not. Just 6% say they view him favorably.
But Olson doesn’t seem to be worried. On his Facebook page last week, the young candidate was already making moves sure to shock political observers and reverberate around the corridors of power in Washington.
“Thinking about tapping Limberbutt McCubbins (D-KY) as my VP nominee,” he wrote.