It may be Donald Trump who has raised this presidential campaign to new levels of frivolity, but in a poll that is arguably frivolous by nature one “candidate” has managed to go viral – and it turns out he’s a 15-year-old from Iowa.
Unlike his competitors in the race to be president in 2016 – people like Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton, or Trump – Deez Nuts has no public profile. He will likely never appear in any televised debates; he has never held public office.
Wednesday was a big day for Deez Nuts. First he won 9% of the vote as an independent in a Public Policy Polling poll of voters in North Carolina – which, on top of recent results of 8% in Minnesota and 7% in Iowa from previous polls, makes him what experts confirmed is the most successful independent candidate for president in two decades.
It was also the day of his high school sophomore orientation.
The candidate is in reality 15-year-old Brady Olson, a high school student from Wallingford, Iowa.
“My name is not Deez Nuts,” he said in an email interview. “I am a 15-year-old who filled out a form, had the campaign catch on fire, and am now putting up the best third-party numbers since Ross Perot.”
The Guardian has also seen Olson’s passport, spoken to him on the phone and confirmed his identity with his parents.
“I’ve told my family and some of my friends from school,” he said. “They still think it’s hilarious.”
There are 585 registered candidates for president in 2016, including Sydneys Voluptuous Buttocks (independent), President Emperor Caesar (Democrat), Buddy The Cat (Democrat), Crawfish Crawfish (other), Bailey D Dog (independent), Buddy The Elf (write-in) and Lindsey Graham (Republican), none of whom – unlike Deez Nuts – received any support whatsoever in PPP’s North Carolina poll.
The poll stood out even in a campaign season that has seen frivolity reach new heights. And PPP is known for occasionally frivolous polling, with questions on whether hipsters should be subject to a special tax or the approval rating of God– but the group said it would continue to include Nuts in future polling.
And while Trump was the headline figure – at 24% in the Republican primary race, double digits clear of his next rival, Ben Carson, at 14% – Nuts’s showing as an independent was the real surprise. Asked the question “If the candidates for President next year were Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump, and independent Deez Nuts, who would you vote for?” respondents in North Carolina voted Trump 40%, Clinton 38%, and Nuts 9%.
He has been endorsed by the punk/hardcore band of the same name, according to his campaign’s Facebook page. And Darrell West, vice-president and director of governance at the Brookings Institution, confirmed that with these numbers, Deez Nuts is indeed at the crest of the most successful independent campaign since Perot in 1996.
It was with “a mix of astonishment and happiness” that Olson saw his poll results come in on Wednesday, he said. “I never thought it would go this far and now it has.
“It’s amazing how this campaign caught on. Right now it’s mainly just the name recognition, but hopefully as we go down the stretch people will actually take the time to look at my campaign website and look at my platform.”
Jim Williams, a polling analyst at PPP, who conducted the North Carolina poll, said that he thought the success of Deez Nuts represented a hunger for voters looking for an alternative to the two main parties. “You could call [the third party candidate] anything,” he said, “and they would get their 7% or 8%.”
He said that PPP had included Nuts in their polling questions at first “for our own amusement and interest”.
Deez Nuts’s platform is fairly serious. In his manifesto he expresses support for the work John Kerry and the state department have done with the Irannuclear deal. “Everyone wants a better deal, but that’s the whole point of negotiating. Look at your wants, then their wants, and meet in the middle.”
He is no fan of Fox News:
And a Deez Nuts White House, according to his manifesto, would also halve congressional salaries until the federal budget is balanced, and cut subsidies to oil companies in favour of tax incentives on renewable energy sources.
Asked whether his candidacy was a political statement or a joke that had snowballed, Olson said it was “a little bit of both, I guess”. He said he watched the 2012 election closely and he was a supporter of Libertarian party and their presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, and said the libertarians were “robbed” in the gubernatorial race in 2014.
“Then I saw the slop bucket that we call the GOP field, the one-woman show on the Democratic side, and the lack of any third party candidate and thought ‘Man, Deez Nuts would be better than any of these guys,’” Olson continued. “So after that I just ran with it.”
Contacted by the Guardian, a spokesperson for the Federal Election Commission said that officials did not actively check the age or identity of the candidates who registered to run for president, adding that it was all done “at state level”.
Olson, for his part, said he had been “shocked by the responses at first, but then remembered this is American media and they find everything”.
“It’s been really fun so far,” he added. “I just hope that we can actually do something memorable in 2016 that we all could remember forever.”