At 8:30 on a brisk Sunday morning, several hundred people gathered in a huddle in front of McKissick Museum on the Horseshoe, awaiting their hero: South Carolina's favorite son.
Comedian-turned-candidate Stephen Colbert spoke for only five minutes to the crowd, a mixture of students and other fans, but kept the crowd alternately laughing and cheering.
He defended his run for president as serious, yet his speech was anything but.
Patriotic music blared through the loudspeakers and his fans waved poster board signs, many also clutching cups of coffee.
Caitlin Audette, a third-year exercise science student, and a group of her friends, had waited on the Horseshoe since 7:45 a.m. for front-row positions to see Colbert's speech.
"It's Stephen Colbert," said Audette of why she woke up so early. "The Colbert magic."
"He would be the best president ever," says her friend Robbie Munsey, a second-year elementary education student. He clarified: "In seriousness, probably not, but it's a good idea."
By 9 a.m. the crowd had swelled, with students climbing trees for better glimpses of Colbert. He finally made his entrance, to an exuberant greeting line and deafening screams from the crowd.
Mayor Bob Coble welcomed Colbert and read a proclamation before giving him the key to the city.
"We are honored to welcome South Carolina's favorite son," Coble said. He declared Oct. 28 "Stephen Colbert Day."
"What an honor to receive this," the Charleston native said. Playing off a popular segment of his show, Colbert said, "Today's word is Gamecock."
He joked about the extreme reactions of the crowd.
"You all must be thrilled to have me here," he said. "I love South Carolina almost as much as South Carolina loves me."
A minute into his speech, Colbert revealed the first part of his platform:
"I have a promise to make to you," he said. "If elected, I will crush the state of Georgia.
"And for good measure, the state of Tennessee."
He expounded on peaches, calling South Carolina's peach crop "more numerous, more delicious and more juiciful" than those from Georgia.
"Their fuzziness is unparalleled," he said.
He then moved to a topic that has had media pundits and politicos furiously debating for the past week, since he announced his candidacy.
"This campaign is real," he said. He said he wants to end rumors he's not a serious candidate. Colbert plans to run in the South Carolina Republican and Democratic primaries - and nowhere else.
Before and after he spoke, people passed around petitions to gather enough signatures so Colbert would not have to pay the entry fee into the Democratic primary.
In the same tone that top tier Republicans and Democrats say they have crisscrossed the country talking to voters, Colbert said he had spent the past 18 hours campaigning across South Carolina -- from Charleston to Columbia.
He spoke Saturday at the College of Charleston.
He kept the audience laughing and cheering, even as he talked about Innovista, where, he said, "scientists will live next to their experiments" to ensure they mutate first should any problems arise.
Then, as quickly as he had come, he was gone, with the parting words, "Go Cocks!"
The students who came said they were fans of his show, and were unsure if they'd ever vote for him.
"It was awesome," said Kendall Webb, a fourth-year broadcast journalism student.
Webb, thrilled that she got to touch Colbert's arm, said she was disappointed in how short his speech was.
Dyer said he would probably vote for Colbert.
"He's no worse than any f the other dopes running," Dyer said.
Keith Black, a first-year broadcast journalism student, said he's definitely voting for Colbert.
"He's not joking around anymore," Black said of Colbert's run for president.
Dennis Nichols, who graduated USC in 2005, said he came to hear the speech for its "absurdity." He said Colbert's candidacy was a good change of pace from typical politics, which are leaving people disillusioned.
"His speech was just like his show," Nichols said. "Hilarious."
Nichols was signing a petition to get Colbert on the ballot, but said he wouldn't vote for him unless he could vote in both primaries.
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© 2007 The Daily Gamecock via U-WIRE