On Monday, Stephen Colbert started The Colbert Report by celebrating the news that South Carolina voters prefer him over any other candidate to fill the Senate seat Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) will soon vacate.
Public Policy Polling, a liberal-leaning think-tank based in North Carolina, reports that Colbert leads the field of candidates by 5 percentage points, exceeding the poll’s 4.3% margin of error:
Colbert tops the wish list of who South Carolina voters would like to see join [the U.S. Senate] at 20%, followed by:
Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) at 15%
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) at 14%
Former S.C. First Lady Jenny Sanford at 11%
Henry McMaster (R) and former S.C. Governor Mark Sanford (R) at 8%
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) at 5%
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) at 4%
With independent voters, Colbert opens his lead over sitting Congressman Tim Scott to 15 points: 28% to 13%.
Colbert is an overwhelming top choice among the state’s Democrats, with 1 in 3 (32%) naming him as their top pick, followed by the more conservative-leaning Jenny Sanford at 19%.
Even though Colbert might win a hypothetical special election right now, he won’t fill the open Senate seat for a few reasons:
1. South Carolina is one of the 36 states where the Governor has the power to appoint people to fill mid-term vacancies (in 14 states voters get to choose the replacement democratically).
The state’s Republican Governor Nikki Haley has indicated that she will appoint a candidate who can defend the seat for Republicans in the 2014 election. Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is thought to be the frontrunner for the Governor’s appointment.
2. This technically is an extension of #1, but it’s a fact worth pointing out to anyone confused by the unapologetic conservative fervor Colbert uses to animate his talk show: In real life, Colbert, by his own admission, is a Democrat. Haley is not required by law to appoint someone of the same political party as the departing politician (such a requirement only exists in Arizona, Wyoming, Hawaii and Utah) – nevertheless, no Republican governor would choose to withstand the internal party backlash created by further tilting the Senate power balance in favor or Democrats.
3. Colbert signed a contract extension with Comedy Central this year which locks him as The Colbert Report anchor through the end of 2014. He joked on Monday night’s show:
Now, my network contract prohibits me from taking on another full-time job…so the Senate would be perfect.
All that being said, South Carolina will have two Senate seats up for reelection in 2014. Whoever fills DeMint’s seat and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will have to defend their seats in the mid-term election. If Colbert’s poll numbers hold steady, he’d almost be a shoe-in to win one of those seats, because, as NBC Today’s co-host Willie Geist said last week,:
I can tell you having done a show with [Colbert] in Charleston, he is an absolute rock star in that state.
Public Policy Polling questioned 523 South Carolina voters from Dec. 7-9. Full results here.
Watch Colbert talk about his poll win on last night’s show:
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