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Stephen Colbert, Herman Cain Take Fifth Place In South Carolina Primary

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After initially staggering out of the gate, it looks as if Herman Cain -- standing in for comedian Stephen Colbert's exploratory committee for the presidency of the United States Of South Carolina -- is going to win the battle of "people on the ballot who are no longer actually running." With just shy of 95% of precincts reporting, Cain/Colbert have taken 5,937 votes, compared to the 2,336 earned by Perry and the 1,629 that have been claimed by "Others." That's good enough for one percent of the vote and, technically, a fifth-place finish. (At the moment, 69,346 votes separate Cain/Colbert from fourth-place finisher Ron Paul.)

Colbert, who has spent the week correcting reporters that he is not actually running a campaign for the White House, but merely "exploring" a run, has suggested that this result will test whether there is a "hunger" for him to run. Earlier this week, Public Policy Polling included Colbert in a poll that yielded the following results:

We find Colbert getting 13% in a hypothetical third party run for President, compared to 41% for Obama and 38% for Romney. A Colbert bid could be a blessing in disguise for the GOP. His voters go for Obama over Romney 52-38 in a straight head to head, so his presence as a potential candidate works to the Republicans' advantage.

36% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 28% with a negative one. His 36% favorability is better than the entire GOP field. Romney's at 35%, Santorum at 30%, Paul at 27%, Gingrich at 26%, and Perry at 21%. Colbert's popular with Democrats (47/21) and independents (43/26) but not with Republicans (18/39) despite his best efforts to run as one of their Presidential candidates.

But a 1 percent finish in South Carolina might blunt Colbert's enthusiasm for these PPP results. We may not know how he'll spin the vote count until the next episode of "The Colbert Report." (Though it would have been hilarious if he'd staged some sort of rally and concession speech tonight.)

I could provide you with a breakdown and analysis by county as to where and why Colbert's effort turned out the most votes, but in lieu of that I'll simply note how surreal it is that politics in America has gotten to the point where I was even considering doing so.

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