Stephen Colbert's super PAC, Americans For A Better Tomorrow, reported Tuesday that it has raised $1,023,121, according to a document filed with the Federal Election Commission. The primary disclosure form, which runs through Dec. 31, lists donations of $825,475, which means Colbert raised almost $200,000 in the month of January alone.
Most donations to the super PAC were under $250, but disclosure forms reveal a $500 donation from Gavin Newsom, the Lieutenant Governor of California, and a $250 donation from actor Bradley Whitford.
News of Colbert's super PAC success comes after he announced his intention to run for “President of the United States of South Carolina” last month, forming an exploratory committee to that end. He followed the legal advice of Senator John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) former general counsel and FEC chair, Trevor Potter, and handed control of his Super PAC to fellow Comedy Central anchor Jon Stewart. So long as the two don’t “coordinate,” it’s all legal.
Colbert's involvement in the 2012 campaign is a good thing for the Republican Party, electoral process, and nation because it forces all involved to examine what really makes a president.
First, this is a good thing for the Republican Party. Save Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan, candidates are essentially running character campaigns and not advocating for certain policies. That’s because most of the Republican field, with the exception of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), generally believe in the same things. Thus, in this field, it’s all about image. Mitt Romney seems the inevitable candidate only because of his perfectly crafted, vanilla ice cream family man image. Also having had success in business, he’s the avatar of today’s Republican Party if there ever was one.
Stephen Colbert is a parody of the stereotypical Republican. Granted, there aren’t as many hipsters in South Carolina willing to ironically vote for Colbert as there might be in Brooklyn. But if Jon Stewart wields Colbert’s Super PAC well, there should be a surprising number of South Carolinians willing to vote for the seemingly ideal Republican. Even more so than Romney, Colbert will say anything, and he has mastered the rhetoric of the Republican Party. Colbert is currently polling around 5% in South Carolina, close to Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) at 8% and Texas Governor Rick Perry at 7%, and if he can garner that number, it would be a strong message to the party that they need to redefine who they are. Even the party who made an established actor president in Ronald Reagan should be ashamed to see a comedian fool so many of its voters.
Second, Colbert 2012 is a good thing for the electoral process. Whereas Colbert was blocked in 2008 from getting on the ballot, he now has the Citizens United ruling on his side. Whatever his showing in the primary, he will demonstrate the implications of that ruling. Further, if the energy behind the Stewart-Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity in 2010 is any indication of young, educated voters’ interest in politics, supporters will flock to South Carolina to campaign for Colbert. This enthusiasm is only a good thing, for it highlights an increasingly important voting bloc’s frustration with the political process.
Finally, Colbert’s candidacy is a good thing for the nation. While pundits will correctly treat his candidacy as a joke, his own show will ensure him airtime so he will not be ignored. Just as he caused a stir with his White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech, his run will anger many Republicans — which isn’t hard to do these days — and change the conversation. If comedian Al Franken can become a senator, why can’t Stephen Colbert become the president? He’s more fit for the job than many Republicans in the field! And if charisma is all it takes to get elected, what does that say about our political priorities?
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