The difference between Colbert and Rogers is that Rogers insisted he was running in jest. "Now when that is done as a joke it is alright," he wrote. "But when it's done seriously, it's just pathetic." But that didn't stop people from supporting him. Henry Ford backed Rogers, as did Babe Ruth and Charles Gibson, Life's owner, who wrote the magazine's official endorsement. Rogers refused to get on the ballot, even though he probably had a decent chance of winning. According to the admittedly biased folks at the Will Rogers Museum, he might have been president if he hadn't died in a plane crash in 1935.
I'm guessing Colbert will push it as far as he can, assuming people keep paying attention. But he knows as well as anyone that the second he appears serious about it, it's just pathetic.
Web test: There's been hype aplenty over campaigns using social networks and other online tools. But it's been hard to measure how many people they're reaching, not to mention whether online activity translates to the ground or the polls.
Politico's (and, er, Slate's) Ryan Grim takes a crack at these questions today with a study examining the surfing behavior of each candidate's online supporters. Conducted in collaboration Compete.com during the month of September, the study tracks visitors to each candidate's official site and records what other sites they visit, too. For instance, you can see what percentage of Fred08.com visitors also checked out Daily Kos (5 percent), Facebook (19 percent), or the Fox News site (24 percent). (See other comparisons here.)
The study's most interesting results deal with the social networks—specifically, the candidates' individual pages. Whereas 30 percent of Barack Obama fans (defined as people who visited his official site) also went to Facebook at some point in September, only 1 percent of them checked out Barack's personal Facebook page. In Hillary's case, the number is 0 percent. Mike Huckabee wins with three percent. That's a pretty small proportion, given how influential these social networks have supposedly become.
YouTube, on the other hand, gets more traffic from the candidates' online base: "Fifteen percent of people who went to [Obama's] official campaign site also went to his YouTube page, compared to 9 percent for Clinton."
You can't call these findings airtight. (The article cautiously avoids overstating them.) For one thing, visitors to a campaign's official site aren't necessarily core supporters. Plus, it's possible that most of Obama's Facebook supporters—mostly young people—have never bothered to go to his official home page. But the study seems useful as a gauge of general trends. Now I'd be curious to see them apply the same method to the campaigns' internal networks, like My.BarackObama.com.