the Least Likely Candidate of 2020
I first met the Andrew Yang campaign at a Democratic Party event on Saturday, October 6, 2018, at the Iowa Events Center.
By convention, no current officeholder will declare a candidacy for president before the “midterm” election is held. As a result, while there were dozens of candidates in the invisible primary, only two candidates were present in the visible primary. One was the much-maligned John Delaney, a member of the US House who chose not to run for re-election in 2018. The other, Andrew Yang.
At the time, Yang had almost no public profile. He was not a seasoned politician. He did not even have a “back story”, only a resume. A resume with a law degree (but no experience practicing law), a side-gig as a GMAT tutor that turned into a CEO position, and a non-profit with a great name but minimal importance.
What Yang did have was a political campaign. In the physical sense, he had Zach Graumann and Carly Reilly. In the ideological sense, he had one issue: Universal Basic Income. And he had a stump speech punchline for the ages: “The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.”
My estimate was that Yang could get around 5% of the vote. That is what he got in first-preference votes in the Iowa caucuses.
In New Hampshire, he did worse, getting 2.8% of the vote and finishing in 8th place. This was enough for Yang (now well-known) to read the writing on the wall, and he immediately withdrew.
In 2021, Yang ran for mayor of New York City. As a candidate for president, he was consistently the candidate with the smallest public profile. Three years later as a candidate for mayor, he was the candidate with the largest public profile. That translated to 12.2% of the pre-realignment vote.