Stephen Colbert â who announced plans to run for the presidency, though only in South Carolina, on his Comedy Central show Tuesday night â is serious enough about the stunt that his staff reached out to the stateâs Democratic and Republican committees in advance of his declaration.
Joe Werner, executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said that a representative for Mr. Colbert, who was raised in Charleston, called three weeks ago asking about filing dates and other requirements. Mr. Werner added, âFrom what I understand, he does have credible people down here, working to have him placed on the ballot.â
Katon Dawson, the chairman of the state Republican Party, said his office had also received a call from Mr. Colbertâs staff â on Tuesday. The call came just hours before Mr. Colbert taped his own show (in which he said he hoped to run as both a Democrat and a Republican) as well as a teaser to his announcement that appeared on âThe Daily Show With Jon Stewart,â which leads into âThe Colbert Report.â
Mr. Dawson, though, was far more dismissive of Mr. Colbertâs apparent intentions than his Democratic counterparts. âMy advice,â he said in an interview, âis that he could probably have more fun buying a sports car and getting a girlfriend.â
How far Mr. Colbert is willing to go â and why exactly he is doing this, beyond stoking interest in his show and his new book, âI Am America (and So Can You!)â â was not at all clear. He did not return messages left with various publicists yesterday. Mr. Stewart declined to be interviewed.
In a surprise appearance on Mr. Stewartâs show just after 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Mr. Colbert arrived on a bicycle piloted by someone in an Uncle Sam costume. Propping his feet on a hay bale and cracking open what appeared to be a beer bottle, Mr. Colbert, in character as a conservative blowhard, told Mr. Stewart that he had âdecided to officially consider whether or not I will announce.â
But on his own show, which began at 11:30, he touched off a cascade of red, white and blue balloons by declaring, âAfter nearly 15 minutes of soul-searching, I have heard the call.â
He noted that he was running as a âfavorite sonâ candidate â âthough not my motherâs favorite son,â he said. âSheâs too fair-minded to ever show a preference between the eight of us.â (Mr. Colbert, 43, is the youngest of 11 children.)
In seeking to turn punch lines into sound bites, Mr. Colbert evoked memories of Pat Paulsen, the sad-eyed comedian who, in 1968, first announced on âThe Smothers Brothers Comedy Hourâ that he was running for president as the candidate of the Straight Talking American Government (STAG) Party. Last year, in âMan of the Year,â Robin Williams played a âDaily Showâ-like host who seeks the presidency and wins.
So assuming Mr. Colbert keeps the gag going, what would he have to do to get on the Democratic ballot in the South Carolina primary, which is expected to be held on Jan. 26?
âWell, thereâs two ways,â Mr. Werner said. âThe first is, you pay a $2,500 filing fee. And if you canât afford to do the $2,500, you can gather 3,000 signatures.â
Time, at least for now, is on his side. Those seeking a claim to the stateâs 54 delegates to the Democratic National Convention can start to file their paperwork on Monday, and have until Nov. 1 to complete the process.
Mr. Colbert would also need the blessing of the executive council of the South Carolina Democratic Party. And that could pose a problem if he goes ahead with his apparent intention to seek a line on both the Democratic and Republican ballots. âI donât believe you can do that,â Mr. Werner said.
But what if Mr. Colbert decided to throw in his lot solely with the Democrats? Provided he met all the other requirements, Mr. Werner said, âour executive council would have a hard time not putting him on the ballot.â
However leery Mr. Dawson may be about Mr. Colbertâs plans, he said that he did not believe the Republicans could stop him from seeking both Republican and Democratic delegates. âThere is nothing in our filing that would prohibit him from running on both ballots, if he chose to pay the filing fees,â he said.
And what is that fee? It is $35,000, Mr. Dawson said.
âThe great thing about America,â Mr. Dawson said, âis, if you can meet the constitutional requirements to run for president of the United States, you can do so. In Mr. Colbertâs case, we look forward to his paying the filing fee before Nov. 1.â