CHARLESTON, S.C. -- After 9 a.m., when he was scheduled to speak at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, Newt Gingrich's campaign announced that he would skip it. The reason: "Low attendance." The credibility of this answer: Very high. The conference looked like a full-on Rumsfeldian disaster, a small number of activists in a way-too-large hall. It wasn't a statement on Gingrich's momentum. It was a smart avoidance of a photo-op nightmare.
Contrast this with the crowd a few blocks away. Hundreds of college students were lined up -- they'd gotten there at 8:30 or so -- to fill the lawn in front of Randolph Hall. They were there to see a Stephen Colbert-Herman Cain rally.
"We tried to get into Newt, then we came here," explained Meghan Lynch, a senior who was first in line with a sign asking Colbert to rock her like a Herman Cain.
Her fellow senior, Meg Scruggs, was more bullish. "I thought the 9-9-9 plan made a lot of sense, fundamentally," she said. "But he repeated it so much that it started to sound ridiculous. Oh well. You say it now, and people know what you mean."
Meghan was voting for Newt. Meg was voting for Ron Paul, as was their friend Cory Smiley, a junior. As I walked away, the astroturf third party collossus Americans Elect was handing out free hats (PARTY CRASHER on the brim) and fliers promoting a Colbert/Cain ticket, because politics are taken so seriously.