Stephen Colbert explores running for president of 'the United States of South Carolina'... as he leads Jon Huntsman in polls

  • Using presidential bid to shed light on super PACs and the unlimited money they can funnel into campaigns

Stephen Colbert is exploring running for president in the GOP primary in South Carolina -- and he's already got a jump on Jon Huntsman, who has spent months on the campaign trail.

The comedian who plays a conservative blowhard on his TV show 'The Colbert Report,' took a formal step toward actually jumping into the Republican race Thursday night.

He's using the schtick to highlight so-called super PACs, political action committees that can take in and spend unlimited amounts of money on a candidate's behalf even though they are nominally out of the candidate's control. It probably doesn't hurt his ratings, either. 

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Stephen Colbert

Funnyman: Stephen Colbert claims he is toying with running for president in the South Carolina Republican primary

Speaking of ratings, a recent poll lists his support at 5 percent - ahead of Mr Huntsman, the former governor of Utah who is running for president for real, who has 4 percent of the vote there. 

However, with just 17 percent favorability -- compared to 60 percent for frontrunner Mitt Romney and 28 percent for Mr Huntsman -- he's not particular popular in in South Carolina, either.

During Thursday night's episode of 'The Colbert Report,' Mr Colbert legally transferred his super political action committee to his friend and Comedy Central cohort Jon Stewart.

Jon Huntsman

Disappointing finish: After coming in third in New Hampshire, Jon Huntsman has come in behind fictional candidate Stephen Colbert in a recent poll

Dropping by from 'The Daily Show,' Mr Stewart happily signed the documents and accepted the post, which was ceremonially observed by the two holding hands and bodily transferring the PAC powers.


The results of a recent Republican presidential survey, even with Stephen Colbert in the mix, show Mitt Romney has a sizable lead.

  • Mitt Romney: 27 per cent
  • Newt Gingrich: 23 per cent
  • Rick Santorum: 18 per cent
  • Ron Paul: 8 per cent
  • Rick Perry: 7 per cent
  • Stephen Colbert: 5 per cent
  • Jon Huntsman: 4 per cent
  • Buddy Roemer: 1 per cent
  • Undecided: 8 per cent

The move potentially paves the way for Mr Colbert to enter the Republican presidential primary in South Carolina, his home state. Campaigning politicians are prohibited from simultaneously running super PACs.

But Mr Colbert only hinted at such a decision, which he had grandly hyped ahead of Thursday's show. In flirting candidate style, he announced that he is forming 'an exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for my possible candidacy for the president of the United States of South Carolina.'

Patriotically colored balloons were released in the studio while a graphic screamed 'I'm Doing It!'

Mr Stewart and Mr Colbert hashed out the peculiar legalities of their arrangement. With Colbert's lawyer (and former chairman of the Federal Election Commission) Trevor Potter on hand, they spelled out that while Mr Colbert was legally forbidden from participating in strategy and advertising with the super PAC, he could still talk about his plans on his TV show and even volunteer for the super PAC.

Stephen Colbert and John Stewart

Working together: Mr Colbert enlisted the help of Daily Show host John Stewart to run his super PAC


Stephen Colbert hasn't laid out a formal political platform yet, but he's given plenty of clues as to how he'd govern the country as president:

  • On job creation: 'Let's face it, Florida's dwarf-tossing ban is nothing but a job killer.'
  • On environmental policy: 'I believe all God's creatures have a soul — except bears. Bears are actually Satan's children.'
  • On international relations: 'If our founding fathers wanted us to care about the rest of the world they wouldn't have declared their independence from it.'
  • On immigration: 'I've long been against illegal aliens, partly because they distract us from an even bigger threat: real aliens.'
  • On nutrition: 'Changing "French fries" to "Freedom fries" was arguably this Republican Congress' greatest accomplishment.'

Mr Stewart declared Mr Colbert vice president of youth outreach for the super PAC, which was renamed The Definitely Not Coordinated with Stephen Colbert Super PAC. Along with Potter, the three joined hands like a sports team and — with thick irony — cheered in unison: 'Non-coordination!'

In 2007, Mr Colbert attempted to enter the South Carolina primary but was stymied by filing fees. The super PAC could very well eliminate any such financial concerns. Mr Colbert hasn't publicly revealed the amount raised from viewer contributions by the PAC, but on Thursday he repeatedly hinted that it was a shockingly large amount.

Mr Colbert has otherwise been very transparent about the PAC's workings, using it to parody the current system's contradictions and potential conflicts of interest. Political action committees stem from a 2010 Supreme Court decision that changed the rules of corporate political donations.

A Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday found that Mr Colbert is polling ahead of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman in South Carolina. According to the survey, Mr Colbert has 5 percent of the vote and Huntsman has 4 percent.

Upon reading those results on 'The Report' on Wednesday, Colbert said: 'This just got real.'

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