If it weren’t for the bodyguards swarming him, it’d be easy to mistake Ko Wen-je for someone’s socially awkward uncle and not a man who could soon be managing one of the world’s most dangerous geopolitical flash points as Taiwan’s next president.

The 64-year-old former trauma surgeon entered politics just a decade ago and is running as a third-party candidate in an election that’s usually a race between the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the opposition Kuomintang. Ko has few aides, little money and admits he doesn’t enjoy meeting people.

Yet he’s proven surprisingly popular. A poll published by broadcaster TVBS in early September, less than five months before the election, had Ko in second place with 23% support. That’s 7 percentage points behind Vice President Lai Ching-te and 4 points ahead of the KMT’s Hou Yu-ih. Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Foxconn Group who’s running as an independent, trailed with 14%.