When the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates lined up on the debate stage last week all but one were current or former elected officials — except one.
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang was a virtual unknown when he announced his candidacy last fall, but he has built a formidable campaign on an economic message of technological change.
The Yang Gang was out in force Monday night along with thousands who packed Cambridge Common to find out why the 44-year-old has had staying power in the Democratic presidential race.
"I'm a pretty ordinary guy for a presidential candidate who right now is six in the polls Boston," Yang told the crowd.
Last fall, when Yang announced his run for president, those who even noticed considered it the fringiest of long shots. The thought of him getting traction was laughable.
But with Yang raising millions, packing rallies, polling among the top 10 and qualifying for every debate, including the fourth next month, no one's laughing at his candidacy anymore.
How does he explain the success he's had?
"I'm calling out the problems that the American people see around us everyday," he told NBC10 Boston. "The fact that 30% of our stores and malls are closing and that Amazon is soaking up all that business paying zero in taxes."
Yang says he is laser focused on how Donald Trump got elected president — in short, the loss of 4 million manufacturing jobs to automation in key swing states.
Yang's solution? A so called "freedom dividend" of $1,000 each month to every American — a program he's already piloting with his own money.
"And when I've been giving this dividend personally to families around the country, I see the impact. Where Jodi Fassi in New Hampshire spent it on car repairs that went from being a real crisis to an inconvenience," Yang said.
He is still hardly a household name, but for many primary voters looking for change, Yang does have appeal. At his hotel lobby, several fans asked for photos.
Asked if he thinks he can win, Yang responded confidently, "I'm going to be the nominee, and if you look at the numbers, Alison, I'm one of only two candidates in the Democratic field that 10% or more of Donald Trump voters said they would support. So if I'm the Democratic nominee, we win."
An NBC national poll out Tuesday shows Yang in 6th place, and a new Emerson poll shows Yang in 4th place in California.