Tribune Washington Bureau
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Satirist Stephen Colbert’s push for protest votes in the South Carolina primary fell flat as former candidate Herman Cain took just over 1 percent of the vote in the Republican presidential primary.
Colbert had urged voters in his home state to vote for Cain on Saturday as an indication of support for Colbert. His latest stunt in a long-running skit mocking campaign finance laws was to form an “exploratory committee,” a legal precursor to launching an official campaign.
Colbert missed the deadline to get on the state’s primary ballot, but Cain’s name was on the ballot even though he suspended his campaign in December. So Colbert tried to appropriate Cain’s spot, launching a last-minute campaign with the slogan, “I am Herman Cain.”
Earlier this month, Colbert handed his “super PAC” over to his Comedy Central colleague and friend Jon Stewart, promising that the two would not “coordinate.” The super PAC launched an ad urging viewers to vote for Cain.
Super PACs can accept and spend unlimited amounts of money on elections as long as they do not coordinate with candidates or their campaigns. Colbert has found this oddity of campaign finance law particularly amusing, especially because many of the serious candidates in the race are getting boosts from super PACs run by friends and former aides.
“I wouldn’t even want to create the appearance of electoral skulduggery,” Colbert said earlier this month on his show, “The Colbert Report.”
To promote the “I am Herman Cain” meme, Colbert organized a rally Friday at the College of Charleston, which drew the largest crowd to date in the 2012 presidential campaign.
The stunt injected some comic relief into the race, but that’s about it. Just 6,324 out of more than 600,000 voters cast ballots for Cain.
“America needs to learn how to lighten up,” Cain said at the rally. “Because this event that was conceived by Stephen Colbert and his staff helps to bring attention to the crisis of the situation that we are in. Every vote counts.”