(CBS News) South Carolina is facing an unexpected Senate race. Republican Sen. Jim DeMint surprised everyone on Capitol Hill Thursday when he announced his resignation. DeMint will resign next month in the middle of his second term. Now the state's Republican governor, Nikki Haley, must choose a successor.
DeMint said Thursday, "This is a good time to leave, because I have term-limited myself. I never intended to be a career politician."
Sources say DeMint prefers Tim Scott -- a first-term conservative congressman from South Carolina, one of only two African-American Republicans in the House.
But "contender" Stephen Colbert emerged last night. On his show "The Colbert Report," he announced, "Take to the Twitters. I want you to tweet @nikkihaley why she should appoint me to the U.S. Senate with the hashtag SenatorColbert."
Colbert grew up in South Carolina and has joked about running for office there before.
Within hours of DeMint's announcement, fans had set up a Colbert for Senate website and established a Twitter account, @colbertforsc. The Twitter account and site aren't affiliated with Colbert, but the site allows people to pledge their support.
Colbert's official account has also started tweeting:
DeMint is a Tea Party hero who has raised more than $15 million over the past four years to help elect Tea Party senators like Marco Rubio, of Fla., Rand Paul, of Ky., and Mike Lee, of Utah. But he has also backed a series of losing, far-right candidates who were not the first choice of party leaders, such as Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, and Nevada's Sharron Angle, who was defeated by Senate Leader Harry Reid in 2010.
As for DeMint's replacement, Colbert says the choice is clear: "Let's see, you want somebody young, somebody conservative, somebody from South Carolina, maybe someone who had a super PAC," he said, pointing to himself, and then added, "Wait a second!"
Haley has not indicated whether she favors Colbert -- or anyone else. She may not make her decision for another month or so. But if, by some small chance Colbert is not selected, he could still run for the seat outright when both of the South Carolina seats are up for grabs in 2014.
For Nancy Cordes' full report, watch the video in the player above.