Colbert's Candidacy Draws Attention From College Students

This story was written by Anthony Pesce, Daily Bruin
Stephen Colbert, famous for mocking politicians, is officially taking his sharp satire to the next level: the White House. Or at least he's trying.

The conservatively comedic news anchor -- host of the Comedy Central television show "The Colbert Report" -- announced his candidacy a few weeks ago. But today is the official deadline for the application to be on the primary ballot in South Carolina, the only state he's running in.

The political blogosphere has been abuzz lately about his candidacy. And though his chance of actually making it to the White House is about as thin as his criticisms are veiled, some have said he might actually have some influence over the race.

He will run in his native state as both a Democrat and a Republican, and he seems to be taking his candidacy as seriously as anyone else running. Except for one thing -- everything he does is a barbed criticism of his fellow candidates.

In order to get on the South Carolina primary ballot, Colbert will have to submit a filing fee of $25,000 for the Republicans and a $2,500 fee or 3,000 signatures for the Democrats.

He said he was running under both parties so he could have the opportunity to lose twice, and when asked by Jon Stewart about his qualifications, he responded by mocking the way many candidates invoke their humble backgrounds for political gain.

"Who would have thought that the son of a poor Appalachian turd miner, the grandson of a goat-ball licker -- born in the town of Could-Be-President -- one day could be president," he said. "Only in America."

Allen Klump, a political science and philosophy student at the University of South Carolina, is helping to lead a signature drive to get Colbert on the Democratic ticket.

Klump is a Republican and frankly said he doesn't even know if he would vote for Colbert, but he has collected more than 500 signatures so Colbert can be part of the political discussion and have some real say in the way campaigns are run.

Colbert has also made a few appearances in character, including giving a speech at the University of South Carolina, which Klump said he attended and enjoyed.

"The first thing I thought of when I heard he was running was, 'That's pretty funny, especially (that he is) only running in the state of South Carolina,'" Klump said. "Then I thought I should probably help him out a little bit."

Klump said he thinks voters are tired of hearing "politically correct" rhetoric and are tired of candidates not addressing the real issues. Colbert can combat this behavior through satire, he added.

"So I felt like, through supporting Stephen Colbert, in a way we would be giving voters the opportunity to ... express their displeasure with the process," he said.

In the run-up to his announcement, Colbert appeared on several shows, including "Larry King Live," "Good Morning America" and "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," refusing to answer whether or not he would run - typical behavior of prospective candidates before an election. He had also conveniently just launched a book, which he used as leverage to promote his indecision.

"A lot of people see this book as me testing the waters for a presidential run," he said on "Good Morning America," clearly making fun of candidates who preface their candidacy announcements with books.

And on his own show, after first appearing on "The Daily Show," he finally made the announcement.

"After nearly 15 minutes of soul searching, I have heard the call. I shall seek the office of the president of the United States," he said.

Kyle Kleckner, president of Bruin Democrats, said that Colbert's campaign could work toward attracting younger, uninterested voters.
And 1.2 million young people are already expressing some interest.

A high school student recently started a Facebook group, "1,000,000 Strong for Stephen T. Colbert," that has over 1.2 million members, which is more than double any other group supporting or denouncing a presidential candidate.

Kleckner said Colbert could be an important catalyst to attract young people to the election and "bring attention to the absurdity of it all."

But David Lazar, president of Bruin Republicans and a former Daily Bruin Viewpoint columnist at the University of California at Los Angeles, wasn't amused.

"If he's running in character, it should be as a Republican," he said. "He has to decide if this is as a joke or if this is serious. There is no way his character would be running as a Democrat."

Colbert has said he is completely serious, and he has even gone as far as having his lawyers meet with officials in South Carolina to make sure his bid is viable.

As far as his campaign goes, he's running on issues relevant only to his state, which include "crushing Georgia," an example of his philosophy of "truthiness" -- or forming an opinion based solely on gut feeling.

"I am from South Carolina. I am for South Carolina," he said. "And I defy any other candidate to pander more to the people of South Carolina -- those beautiful, beautiful people."
© 2007 Daily Bruin via U-WIRE