The political and media world is abuzz today over news that Stephen Colbert may throw his hat in the ring as a write-in candidate in next week’s primary in his native South Carolina and beyond. This came after a poll found him edging Jon Huntsman 5 percent to 4 percent. Two nights ago on the Colbert Report, the host took note of that and promised an “important announcement” on Thursday. The world quaked. Remember, he has formed his own, well-financed (with donations) Super Pac and already had some fun using the dough.
Last night, in a brilliant — and very educational move — he announced that he was forming an exploratory committee for a race for president, but he had one problem: that Super PAC. About the only restriction they bring is the candidate can not consult with its managers. So Colbert on the air signed over control of the PAC to … Jon Stewart! Of course, he promised not to consult with him at all. His expert lawyer testified that this was perfectly legal. The PAC may start spending for ads in South Carolina right away.
Even if his candidacy does not happen, Colbert has already provided a real "teaching moment" for millions of viewers.
Well, most may have forgotten but Stephen has been down this road before. In fact, my book on the 2008 campaign, Why Obama Won, kicks off with the riotous episode. This was pre-PAC, but still made a mockery of things.
He had started the excitement during an appearance on Larry King’s show in October 2007 to promote his new book, I Am America (And So Can You). The Comedy Central star was accused by the host of using the book as a platform to run for president. Colbert happily confirmed this, saying that he would likely seek the nomination from both parties. When King said this was a “cop out,” Colbert said that it actually demonstrated true “courage” because “I could lose twice.”
Likely he would launch his grassroots crusade in his native state, South Carolina, as a “favorite son.” Colbert refused to knock any of his competitors, but did allow that Fred Thompson’s campaign slogan should be, “Do Not Disturb.” He pointed out that Mike Huckabee had already offered him the veep spot if the former Arkansas governor got the GOP nomination.
Soon, a major South Carolina public TV station offered Colbert airtime to officially announce his candidacy. The Colbert bump kept growing when, on October 14, Maureen Dowd turned over her New York Times column to him for the day. Colbert revealed, “While my hat is not presently in the ring, I should also point out that it is not on my head. So where’s that hat?”
Keeping nothing under his missing hat, he went on to describe his platform. On gender: “The sooner we accept the basic differences between men and women, the sooner we can stop arguing about it and start having sex.” On race: “While skin and race are often synonymous, skin cleansing is good, race cleansing is bad.” On the elderly: “They look like lizards.”