WASHINGTON - An unexpected name is surging in the polls and shaking up the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign.
The candidate? Deez Nuts.
That's the alter ego of 15-year-old Brady Olson, who decided to prank America by registering as an independent candidate in his home state of Iowa.
Even though Olson is still two decades shy of the 35-year minimum age limit to become president, he asked Public Policy Polling to include Deez Nuts among a list of other candidates running for president. To his surprise, they agreed.
The poll asked residents of the eastern state of North Carolina who they would support if their choices were Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump, or independent Deez Nuts.
Deez Nuts received a surprising 9 percent of the vote.
Since then, his campaign has taken off. He's been interviewed by dozens of media outlets. Endorsements are pouring in from celebrities and professional athletes.
Deez Nuts also has been trending on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Google said this week that more people were searching for Deez Nuts than for Hillary Clinton.
According to the Daily Beast, Deez Nuts even received an endorsement from Warren G, the rapper who came up with the comedic catchphrase, a reference to testicles, which first appeared on a legendary hip hop album by Dr. Dre.
So why did Olson decide to run? First of all, he says, because he can.
Free for all
As it turns out, anyone can file to run for president with the Federal Elections Commission, provided they fill out an initial application that is so basic that it does not even ask for the candidate's age.
If that application, the FEC Form 2, is submitted electronically, the candidate immediately appears on the FEC's candidates list, even before the information is fully vetted, according to FEC officials.
Another more serious motivation for running, according to Olson, is that he is tired of the two main political parties and wanted to provide an alternative to Clinton, Trump and ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
The "platform" section of Olson's campaign website is no joke. The libertarian-leaning teenager says he supports a balanced budget, is a proponent of the Iran nuclear deal, and that he opposes illegal immigration.
Still, Deez Nuts' popularity has some Americans scratching their heads, and wondering what, if anything, it says about the state of U.S. democracy.
Is the campaign an example of just how silly the U.S. political scene has become? After all, it comes during a campaign in which Trump, best known to many Americans as a reality TV star, is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
Some say it demonstrates the misleading nature of political polls, especially when they are conducted months before the first primary vote. Others say it shows voters are so tired of Democrats and Republicans that they will literally support anyone who runs in a third party.
In any case, Deez Nuts has apparently inspired many others to also run for president. According to FEC records, 699 people have declared their candidacies, as of early Saturday. The list is growing, and even includes some non-humans.
Limberbutt McCubbins, a cat owned by an 17-year-old student from Louisville, Kentucky, recently announced his candidacy, saying on his website "meow is the time" to run for the "demo-cat" nomination for the presidency.
Among McCubbins' stated positions are support for "gay cat marriage," regular veterinarian checkups, and a pledge to "help all American citizens gain access to both medical and recreational catnip."
Other candidates on the FEC list include Buddy the Cat, Bailey D. Dog, and Mr. Not Sure.