Remember Morry Taylor? He was an unexpected curiosity who popped up in the 1996 Republican primaries, a carnival of losers vying for a chance of being electorally buried by the popular Democratic incumbent, Bill Clinton. The late Senator Bob Dole eventually “won” that privilege, landing on the canvas in a 379-159 drubbing in the Electoral College.
I remember Morry Taylor because before “Moneyball” and “The Big Short,” author Michael Lewis took a shine to the straight-talking, Detroit-born tire and wheel manufacturer (nickname: “the Grizz”) and memorably profiled him, first in The New Republic and then in his campaign book, “Trail Fever.”
The Grizz made for great copy. “Your school is too big,” he thundered to an auditorium filled with students in Ames, Iowa. “This is what is wrong with America.” After spending $6 million, Taylor netted 0.18 percent of the New Hampshire vote, according to the Federal Election Commission. He was outpolled by comedian Pat Paulsen, conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche, and former Harvard government studies tutor Alan Keyes.
Who will be the Morry Taylor of this election cycle? Who will spend money needlessly on a vanity candidacy and garner bucketfuls of free media hacked out by bored journalists sitting around the Manchester Best Western waiting for actual candidates to show up? The clock is ticking! Governor Ron (the Mickey slayer) DeSantis of Florida had a big event there Friday night, and You-Know-Who can’t be far behind.
Right around now, clued-in readers are asking: He knows this is a key subplot of the current “Succession” season on HBO, right? Connor Roy and his quixotic quest for a 1-percent primary result? Answer: Yes, I know.
Morry Taylor avatars abound. Flying so far under the radar as to skim the wavetops is businessman Perry Johnson, described as a “former unsuccessful candidate for governor of Michigan.” Something about fraudulent signatures. Oh, well. Johnson paid for a Super Bowl ad to run in Iowa, which apparently lends him a patina of legitimacy.
Then there is entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, like DeSantis a right-wing mash-up of Harvard and Yale educations. Ramaswamy was crisscrossing New Hampshire last week “speaking hard truths” to Granite Staters. It’s the usual goulash of GOP desiderata: “Annihilate the cartels in Mexico”; “America First”; “wokeness is the AI-created monster we all feared”; with a bit of added spice: “I will pardon Mr. Trump on Jan. 20, 2025.”
That should land him a minor speaking role in the extremely hypothetical political sequel, “Trump Part Deux: The Retribution.”
On the Democratic side we have Marianne Williamson, who I think is running on a love platform — I’m for love! — and the pathetic anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. His greatest claim to fame is his marriage to Cheryl Hines, a cast regular on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” When RFK Jr. was spewing his usual misguided screed, Hines tweeted: “My husband’s opinions are not a reflection of my own. While we love each other, we differ on many current issues.”
Still, we’d like to see her on the campaign trail. It would spice up the Sandwich Fair.
Speaking of Morry Taylor … how is Titan International’s 78-year-old non-executive chairman faring these days? The cheerful and garrulous Taylor called me from his car to woolgather about his nine grandchildren, excessive wokeness, and of course his long-ago adventures in the Granite State. “One of the great things about the experience was going out there and knowing you were going to get your brains kicked in,” he recalled.
His Grizziness abides. Asked if he harbors any regrets about the expensive, bootless campaign, he jokes, “that money came out of my kids’ inheritance, they might be angry at me.” It’s clear that he had a blast in what proved to be — thank the stars! — a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “I met people and listened to them,” he said. “Meeting the people was just great.”
Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.