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Stephen Colbert for president? What's his point? (+video)

Stephen Colbert handed over control of his super PAC cash pile to Jon Stewart Thursday, paving the way for a run at the presidency of 'the United States of South Carolina.'

By Staff writer / January 13, 2012

In this photo provided by Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert (c.) and John Stewart (r.) hold hands during The Colbert Report, as Trevor Potter looks on Thursday in New York. During the episode, Colbert legally transferred his super PAC to Stewart, his friend and Comedy Central cohort. Dropping by from 'The Daily Show,' Stewart happily signed the documents and accepted the post.

Comedy Central, Kristopher Long/AP

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Stephen Colbert is thinking about running for the presidency of South Carolina! He announced that he’s forming an exploratory committee to that effect last night at the top of the “Colbert Report," in case you haven’t heard. Yes, yes, we know – this is huge, something so big it may possibly upend the 2012 presidential race and democracy as we know it.

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It’s as if a giant, smoking volcano that is not Newt Gingrich has burst out of the intersection of 17th and K Streets in Washington and is now threatening to spew lava over all it surveys. Or possibly not, since he may decide not to run, in which case, never mind.

Here’s the bottom line: Colbert has two bottom lines in this case, we think. The first is to get attention. We mean no disrespect by this – that’s what people in show business do. He’s seized upon an actual poll that shows he’s the choice of 5 percent of voters for the upcoming GOP primary in his home state of South Carolina and turned it into show-stopping comedy. That means better ratings for him and for Comedy Central.

Look, Colbert appears to love attention even more than your average spotlight grabbing funny guy, as a recent New York Times profile points out. Look at him at the start of his show, when the audience is chanting his name as he comes on – his face just lights up.

“I’m just a guy who likes to keep a low profile,” Colbert said last night at that moment. “Ask anybody who subscribes to the ‘Stephen Colbert 24/7 Low Profile Web Cam’.”

The second bottom line is to expose the absurdities at the heart of the US campaign finance system. Colbert long ago launched a comedic crusade against super PACs, organizations created in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 “Citizens United” decision. Super PACs are allowed to accept unlimited amounts of cash from individual donors, and spend same on ads that promote or attack political candidates, as long as they don’t coordinate with the candidate who benefits from their actions.

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