One argument for keeping fringe candidates around is that they make the mainstream pack address difficult topics. You could say the same thing about Stephen Colbert's sudden presence in the 2008 race, only in this case he's making them funny.
After a South Carolina newspaper let readers vote on whether John Edwards or Stephen Colbert was actually the state's "favorite son," the Edwards camp issued this rebuttal:
CLAIM: Edwards abandoned South Carolina when he was one year old.
FACT: Edwards was born in South Carolina, learned to walk in South Carolina, learned to talk to in South Carolina, and will kick Stephen Colbert's New York City butt in South Carolina. Stephen Colbert claims to represent a new kind of politics, but today we see he's participating in the slash and burn politics that has no place in American discourse. The truthiness is, as the candidate of Doritos, Colbert's hands are stained by corporate corruption and nacho cheese. John Edwards has never taken a dime from salty food lobbyists and America deserves a President who isn't in the pocket of the snack food special interests.N
ot bad for a political communications team. Voters like a candidate who can make fun of himself, and Edwards hasn't always fit the bill—see his bristling response to the admittedly ubiquitous coverage of his hair. Poking fun at his anti-corporate, anti-lobby image is a smart move.
Hopefully we'll see Colbert engage the other candidates, too. Something tells me Mitt Romney is already readying the canned-joke assembly line.