After announcing his “exploratory committee for president of the United States of South Carolina” Thursday night, Stephen Colbert’s mock campaign snapped into action, buying $7,600 in ad time on a Charleston television station. His super PAC, which he passed off to Jon Stewart and renamed the Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC, followed suit, making a $10,000 buy.
Unfortunately for anyone convinced by Colbert’s ads, they won’t have a chance to vote. The deadline for registering for the primary was Nov. 1, and the state doesn’t allow write-in candidates. “There is no ‘blank’ space on voting machines to write in a candidate,” Matt Moore, a spokesman for the South Carolina Republican Party, testily explained to ABC. “Stephen Colbert has about as much a chance at being elected president in South Carolina as he does of being elected pope. Zero. It didn’t work four years ago, and it won’t work now. The gag is worn out.”
But what about the other states? Should Colbert decide to continue with his “gag” after his home state’s primary, he doesn’t have many options. “With the enormous caveat that this is all for humor and theater, the math for a hypothetical Colbert campaign would be extremely quixotic and strange,” said George Washington University Prof. John Sides. “The race is probably already over, and primaries likely won’t matter by the time it gets to Super Tuesday.”
That being the case, Colbert would want to find the earliest primary he could qualify for, says Sides. He’ll also want to find an open primary—one where independents and Democrats can vote. Finally, he’ll want to find one that distributes its delegates proportionally, rather than giving them all to whoever gets the most votes.
That leaves one state: Texas. Normally the state would hold its primary on March 6, Super Tuesday, and its filing deadline would have been Dec. 19. But last month a federal court approved a plan to push it back to April 3 so a legal battle over redistricting could get sorted out.
What’s bad news for Rick Perry is good news for Colbert. Texas’s filing period will reopen on a date yet to be determined, then close again on Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. Colbert couldn’t ask for a better state. Texas has an open primary, and in another break for him, this year it made its primary fully proportional. That means if enough of Colbert’s fans flock to the polls and ask for the Republican primary ballot, there’s a slim chance he could score a few delegates.
And with a GOP filing fee that’s $30,000 cheaper than South Carolina’s, Colbert doesn’t have the same excuse he used in 2007. Of course, the Texas Republican Party could always just bar him from the ballot, as the South Carolina Democrats did during his previous run.
After Texas, Colbert has only two other states that meet his criteria. Indiana has an open primary on May 8 and a filing deadline of March 1—but it’s winner-take-all. Arkansas has an open primary on May 22 and a deadline of Feb. 10. It’s proportional, but a candidate has to get a significant percentage of the vote to get any delegates.
In any case, Texas is a month sooner than either of those states, and it has triple their number of delegates. If Colbert wants a delegate, expect to start seeing ads for "Rick Parry."