Will Stephen Colbert Affect the South Carolina Primary?

COMMENTARY | Herman Cain is back in the news regarding his candidacy for the GOP nomination to run against Barack Obama. His name remains on the South Carolina primary ballot even though he “suspended” his campaign in 2011 amid allegations of sexual misconduct, according to Fox News. Cain’s return to the spotlight is due to his newest advocate — Stephen Colbert, host of a faux news show on Comedy Central. Colbert is calling for people to vote for Cain in the South Carolina primary as a substitute indicator of opinion on a Colbert campaign, Newsday reports.

Colbert has been trying to make a statement against Super PACs and the new rulings that allow unlimited donations to them. A Reuters article describes Colbert’s use of sarcasm to express his displeasure. Colbert said, “Faced with this tragic lack of corporate influence in our government, five courageous, unelected justices of the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the constitutional right to spend unlimited money in political speech.”

College students are rallying to Colbert’s events, some claiming they will vote as he directs. One such voter explains her reasons for doing so in a Reuters video, saying she likes poking fun at politics.

While this is all in good fun and America can always use a laugh there may be unintended consequences. Ron Paul, often touted as a favorite among younger voters, may be losing votes to Colbert’s rallying cry, according to the Christian Science Monitor. If people in the demographics from which Paul draws support turn aside to cast a “hilarity ballot” it could make a dent in Paul’s numbers at the end of the Primary and affect his candidacy.

Another possible issue may be a return of Cain to the race. Technically Cain’s campaign is “suspended” and could resume. If Colbert’s influence is strong enough that Cain pulls off a miraculous showing he might decide to re-enter the race. It could be a short-lived run, but adding a candidate to the mix would definitely skew voting results during a period when the candidate field normally begins to shrink.

As the results come in America will see how large an impact a comedian can have on the 2012 election through lampooning the political process.

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