(Updates with Stewart in eighth paragraph.)
Jan. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Comedian Stephen Colbert, emboldened by a recent poll that showed him ahead of Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr., announced yesterday on his late-night television show that he will explore running for “president of the United States of South Carolina.”
Colbert, 47, grew up in South Carolina, which holds the next presidential primary on Jan. 21. Projecting the conservative persona he uses on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” he said he sees himself as the “Mitt-ternative” -- a reference to front-runner Mitt Romney -- and decided to form “an exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for my possible candidacy.”
“I’m doing it!” Colbert shouted as red, white and blue balloons rained down and the audience cheered and applauded.
While Colbert-as-candidate may be just another layer of comedy, he could attract more attention, bigger crowds and larger donations than some of the six official contenders.
His October 2010 “Rally to Restore Fear and/or Sanity” with fellow comedian Jon Stewart in Washington drew a larger crowd than the rally it intended to spoof, hosted by Glenn Beck, a conservative commentator who is the former host of a Fox News Channel television show.
In June, Colbert won Federal Election Commission approval to form an independent political action committee, which can raise unlimited money from unions, individuals and corporations. On yesterday’s show, Colbert consulted with Trevor Potter, a partner at the Caplin and Drysdale law firm in Washington, who helped write the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law and also helped Colbert organize his “Colbert Super PAC.”
To clear a path for his possible presidential bid, Colbert transferred control of his independent political action committee to Stewart, who promptly renamed it the “Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC.” Under federal law, candidates are forbidden to coordinate in any way with so- called super-PACs, which can accept unlimited donations from corporations, unions and other groups.
“I am excited to take the reins of this completely independent organization, and begin to air ads in South Carolina,” Stewart, the host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” said in a press release posted on the PAC’s website. “But I want to be clear: Stephen and I have in no way have worked out a series of Morse-code blinks to convey information with each other on our respective shows.”
Colbert said he was inspired to possibly run for president by the results of a recent Public Policy Polling survey of 1,112 likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina. The Democrat-aligned firm found in an automated telephone survey conducted Jan. 5-7 that Colbert had 5 percent support, compared with 4 percent for Huntsman, a former Utah governor, who placed third in New Hampshire’s primary this week. Colbert displayed the numbers on his show Wednesday, declaring, “This just got real.”
That same night he spoke of his indifference toward Romney, who won the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, and compared the presumed nomination of the former Massachusetts governor with an arranged marriage.
Four years ago, Colbert briefly ran for president, again focusing on his home state. He decided against filing as a Republican because of the fee and was rejected by the Democrats as not a “serious” candidate.
--Editors: Leslie Hoffecker, Cesca Antonelli
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