Tonight, the Republican race for president may get a teeny bit more crowded: Stephen Colbert will be making an announcement about his plans for throwing his hat in the ring for the Jan. 21 GOP primary in his home state of South Carolina. He’s not serious — at least we think he’s not — but the latest public opinion polls do place the comedian at 5 percent in the state, a full point ahead of real-life candidate John Huntsman.
This isn’t the first time Colbert has made a half-joking run for the White House. He tried to get on the ballot during the 2008 Democratic primary in South Carolina, but state party officials rejected his application. Nor is he the first comic to declare in the 2012 race: Roseanne Barr announced her candidacy in August on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. But we’re pretty sure Colbert is the only one to form his own superPAC, “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.” It’s unclear how much money it has in the bank, but it was enough to make mischief during the August Iowa Straw Poll with an ad urging conservatives to vote for Rick Parry. That’s Parry with an A, as opposed to Perry with an E, which is how the Texas governor spells it.
Of course, presidential elections have been playgrounds for comedians for decades. Pat Paulsen became a pop culture sensation when the hilariously uncharismatic political satirist announced his candidacy in 1968 (and again in 1972, 1980, 1988, 1992, and 1996). Stand-up icon Dick Gregory also ran a write-in campaign in the chaotic 1968 presidential race, possibly hurting Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey’s chances against Richard Nixon (at least that’s the theory being suggested on Gregory’s website).
Comedians running for president have become such a national joke, Robin Williams even made a movie about it. In 2006’s Man of the Year, William’s fictional comic actually wins the election. And why not, he wasn’t the first clown to live in the White House.
We don’t know what Colbert’s intentions are for tonight, but if for some reason he decides not to run, what other comic would you want to see in the Oval Office, PopWatchers? And if he does run, will you open up your wallet to make a better tomorrow, tomorrow?