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Colbert and Cain Draw Big Crowd at S.C. Rally

Colbert and Cain Draw Big Crowd at S.C. Rally

By Erin McPike - January 20, 2012


CHARLESTON, S.C. -- When Newt Gingrich drew about 1,000 people to a New Hampshire rally during his surge in the national polls late last year, it seemed like the Republican presidential race was finally generating enthusiasm.

And then Stephen Colbert and Herman Cain came to South Carolina this week.

According to Mike Robertson, a public relations representative at the College of Charleston, 3,300 people came out to see the duo Friday for an afternoon “political” rally inside the college’s courtyard. At least another 1,000 gathered around the fenced-in perimeter.

No candidate has been able to attract crowds like that in this critical primary state.

Of course, Colbert, the comedian/faux candidate whose eponymous show is on Comedy Central, didn’t make the primary ballot in this state -- but not for lack of trying. Because the South Carolina Republican Party doesn't allow voters to write in names on their ballots, he’s urging them to select Herman Cain when they head to the polls on Saturday.

But there’s a hitch. Cain is no longer running; he’s just trying to keep his message going and his “9-9-9” tax plan alive.

“He can’t get on the ballot,” Cain said of Colbert after being introduced, “and I can’t get off the ballot.”

Colbert joked that Cain has his face on the side of a bus, while “Gandhi didn’t have that.” Cain said Colbert doesn’t have his “complexion perfection.”

But in his off-the-cuff remarks, Cain discouraged the crowd -- comprised of mostly students -- from wasting their votes on him.

He pointed out that the students would be around a long time and need to care about their future, a point that made one rally-goer shout, “Stephen’s never gonna die!”

Cain joked back, “You’re probably right about that.”

The response to each man's remarks was louder and rowdier than has been the case at the remaining contenders’ events here this week.

Mentions of the state’s high-profile GOP politicians -- Gov. Nikki Haley and Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint -- drew jeers from the crowd.

Colbert did call the country’s campaign finance system “a joke” -- a point with which many Republicans agree. Playing off of Thursday’s allegations from Newt Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne, about the former speaker, Colbert said he would not respond to questions about an “open marriage.” In a nod to the campaign's national front-runner, he said, “The only difference between Mitt Romney and a statue of Mitt Romney is that the statue doesn’t change its position.”

And just like President Obama, who sang a line from an Al Green classic during a fundraiser Thursday at the Apollo Theatre in New York, both Cain and Colbert crooned to the crowd.

Micah Bennet of Summerville, S.C., said of his voting intentions: “I was leaning towards Santorum or Newt before this.” He had supported Cain before he dropped out, but seeing him again “caused me to make some consideration,” and Bennet said he's leaning toward voting for him Saturday -- even though Cain urged the crowd not to do so. 

And Cain, who previously said he would back a candidate in the race, offered what he said was a most "unconventional endorsement" -- the people of South Carolina. It was a non-endorsement endorsement, akin to when Time magazine made "You" the person of the year. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns contributed to this report.

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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