The Colbert Distraction

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 20 2012 2:56 PM

The Colbert Distraction

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Two posts about Stephen Colbert? I know; I'm sorry. The Comedy Central host's stunt presidential bid, his second, was the biggest show in downtown Charleston today; I was working nearby, so I walked over. The game was rigged. His rally, which used a stage CNN had set up for its own coverage, was smack in the middle of the College of Charleston campus. Students filed out of class (or skipped it outright) to see a silly show, featuring a choir and Herman Cain's bus, which -- astoundingly -- has a bigger picture of his head than his last bus did.

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Breaking news: College kids really, really like Stephen Colbert. I walked past the west side of the rally just as four kids were being told to crawl the hell off of an ambulence perch. "What in God's name could have convinced you to do that?" shouted a medic.

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The news value: Arguable. Herman Cain arrived with Mark Block in tow, emphasizing just how desparate Colbert is willing to get to spread the word against Super PACS. Block, last anyone asked him, is still waiting on an "independent counsel" to find if he broke the law by shuffling money from a PAC to help out the early-days Cain campaign. (The bus outside was a reminder of how much lucre Cain's joke campaign had held on to.) Cain introduced Block as "the smoking man" -- big cheers went up. Cain even begged off of the point of the rally -- of Colbert telling people to "vote for Herman Cain" while running Super PAC ads about himself.

"He can't get on the ballot," said Cain, "and I can't get off the ballot!" But Republicans "shouldn't waste their votes," and shouldn't vote for him. He was a team player, after all.

I left the rally to finish more work, planting my laptop at a Wi-Fi-equipped gourmet spot called -- I would never make this up -- "Caviar & Bananas." Sherry Ray, who'd moved to Charleston from Tennessee, noticed my press badge and needed me to know how much she and her husband hated the campaign.

"I'm now disliking the whole process," she said. "Sure, I might just vote for Cain. A lot of people are going to write in Colbert."

Who'd she back last time?

"I voted for Ralph Nader," she said, "so you can't blame anything on me."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.