Ron Paul: Are his voters being stolen away by Stephen Colbert?

Comedian and pseudo-candidate Stephen Colbert, tapping the South Carolina primary as his playground, appears to have a bead on the classic Ron Paul voter.

David Goldman/AP
Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, greets supporters as he leaves a campaign stop followed by his wife Carol on Tuesday, in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Paul should watch out for Stephen Colbert, who may be trying to steal his voters in the upcoming South Carolina primary.
Cliff Owen/AP/File
This June 2011 file photo shows comedian Stephen Colbert as he appears before the Federal Election Commission in Washington. Is Colbert stealing Ron Paul's voters in the upcoming South Carolina primary?

Ron Paul should watch out: Stephen Colbert may be trying to steal his voters in the upcoming South Carolina primary.

Laugh if you want, but this is semi-serious, in the way that the chips in a chocolate chip cookie are usually semi-sweet. Talk-show host/political provocateur/hair model Colbert has formed an exploratory committee to look into the possibility of running for president of South Carolina, in case you haven’t heard. He took this action after a Public Policy Polling survey showed him ahead of at least one real politician, Jon Huntsman, in the Palmetto State race.

Mr. Huntsman’s since dropped out, of course, which Mr. Colbert says was the result of his (Colbert’s) possible candidacy.

But there is a flaw in the comedian’s ointment: South Carolina has no provision for write-ins on its ballot, and it’s too late for Colbert to enter the primary.

What to do? Flip the problem around, and adopt the name of someone who can’t get off the ballot, even though they’re no longer running: Herman Cain. Brilliant!

“Anybody who shares my values can show it by voting for Herman Cain,” said Colbert on his Monday night show.

And here’s where Representative Paul comes in: Colbert appears to be reaching out to the demographic that in Iowa and New Hampshire supported the Texas libertarian. That means he wants young people (a category in which Paul has done very well), independent-minded voters, and Democrats willing to cross party lines to vote for someone whose policies they admire.

As Colbert noted on Monday, South Carolina has an open primary, which means you don’t have to be a preregistered Republican to participate in the GOP vote. He said he’s fishing for “independents, Democrats, college kids, viewers of my show, people who attended my rally, my Twitter followers, my good friends on Reddit, young people of the Internet – stand up and shout!”

Doesn’t that list sound like people who are also attracted to Paul? Yes, it does to us, too. Paul won a plurality of 46 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 in New Hampshire, for instance.

Now, Paul is not expected to do as well in South Carolina as he did in Iowa and New Hampshire. Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy, in particular, does not always go over well in a state with many large military bases.

Right now, Paul is tied with Rick Santorum for third in South Carolina, at 14.3 percent of the vote, according to the RealClearPolitics average of major polls.

But you know how the media play the expectations game: If even a percentage point or two of Paul’s vote decides to bolt for the Cain/Colbert experiment, then the MSM will pronounce that Paul did worse than expected, and they'll pay less attention to him than they do now. Or something like that.

One last bit of evidence that Colbert is after Paulites is the new ad from the "super political-action committee" that he once controlled. Now named the Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC, it released a spot this week explaining that a vote for Mr. Cain in South Carolina is really a vote for Colbert. And the "notion voter" they have pondering this choice is a thin, young man who appears to be a college student, probably spends a lot of time on the Internet, and so forth.

Sure looks like a picture of a Paul supporter to us.

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