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Ten reasons Stephen Colbert would actually make a great pick for Senator

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com   |   Dec. 11, 2012 at 9:54 AM
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The Stephen Colbert most Americans know probably wouldn't make a very good Senator.

But the real Stephen Colbert, the actor-comedian behind the blustery Conservative newsreader of the same name, could make a great one.

Here are 10 reasons why the Colbert Report host could make the move from comedy to Congress, and do it well.

1. He is not his character

While most know Colbert as his persona, a right-wing pundit parody of Glenn Beck or Bill O'Reilly, the man behind the character is nothing like the guy we see on television. Although he has described himself as a Democrat, he appeals to Republicans, too, and takes delight in skewering members of both parties. He's from the South, but avoids southern stereotypes.

2. He might trade in humor, but he can bring attention to serious issues

Colbert held his own when he appeared to testify before a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on immigrant labor. Although he stayed almost entirely in character to discuss his "vast experience spending one day as a migrant farm worker," through the jokes, Colbert was brutal. He infuriated Conservative pundits by bringing light and humanity to an otherwise easily targeted group.

3. Others have (very successfully) made the leap

President Ronald Reagan, for one. And Senator from California, George Murphy.

But a more direct comparison might be current Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken. Since leaving comedy to run for office in 2010, Franken has made his mark by bringing some humor and straight-talk to his job on the hill.

Last summer, Franken did something unthinkable: made Judiciary Committee testimony go viral. At a hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act, Franken took apart the testimony of Focus On the Family director Tom Minnery for misrepresenting a the findings of a study on family health.

It's not hard to imagine Colbert, who exposes similar contradictions in news coverage on a daily basis on his show, doing similar work in Congress.

4. He's got the pedigree...mostly

Colbert was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up in Charleston, S.C., so he can claim both Beltway insider and outsider status, depending on the moment. He spent two years in college in Virginia before transferring to Northwestern University. Even as a student at a prestigious university, Colbert didn't take things more seriously than he had to--he studied drama, and by his own word, almost failed to graduate.

5. Everybody loves a tragedy

Americans love good personal stories--rags to riches, yes, but overcoming any kind of adversity.

Colbert lost his father and two of his brothers in a plane crash in 1974, when he was just 10 years old. Colbert has described the time as particularly difficult, adjusting not only to the loss of his father and brothers but also to a new neighborhood, and that he didn't fit in well with other children. Of course this led to...

6. He's obsessively intellectual about really nerdy things

Particularly, as fans of the show know well, of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Colbert doesn't miss an opportunity to revel in his favorite geekdom, celebrating the upcoming release of The Hobbit with a week-long tribute to Tolkien on his show.

7. He's religious in a way that's palatable on both sides of the aisle

Raised in the Catholic church, Colbert describes himself as devout and taught Sunday school. He often talks about growing up as one of 11 children (a good Catholic family!), but he's not afraid to cast a little doubt.

"I love my Church, and I'm a Catholic who was raised by intellectuals, who were very devout," he told Time Out New York in 2006, when his career was beginning to blossom. "I was raised to believe that you could question the Church and still be a Catholic. What is worthy of satire is the misuse of religion for destructive or political gains."

8. He already has a Super PAC

And he used it as a surprisingly powerful teaching tool to explain to his audience what these mysterious groups are and how they work.

Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, at times called The Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC (during his brief exploration of a presidential run in 2012), was a good joke, but it was also a useful way to explain how political action committees function and how elections have changed dramatically since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

9. He helped out at the Olympics

Hey, it was good enough for Mitt, wasn't it?

In 2010, Colbert was named the assistant sports psychologist for the U.S. Olympic speed skating team. Although he spent most of his time in Vancouver in fairly typical Colbert Report fashion, he did make a run for the final spot on the speed skating team.

10. The world wants it

Stephen Colbert's name was mentioned almost as soon as Jim DeMint announced he was vacating his Senate seat, and many aren't taking the comedian's chances as a joke.

Colbert began a Twitter campaign to lobby South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to choose him for the spot, and though she seemed to give him the cold shoulder, voters aren't giving up.

But perhaps most tellingly, Public Policy Polling, the polling firm who was the most accurate in the 2012 election, asked South Carolina voters who they'd like to see replace DeMint.

Colbert came in first, with 20 percent of respondents saying they wanted Haley to appoint him. Rep. Tim Scott, the African-American Republican who many in Washington assumed would be Haley's obvious choice, had 15 percent support. Jenny Sanford, the wife of former Gov. Mark Sanford, was in fourth with 11 percent. Voters liked Jenny Sanford best--at 17 percent--if Haley wouldn't take Colbert's candidacy seriously.

Naturally, Stephen loves it.

Haley is reportedly considering a list of five names to replace DeMint--none of whom are Colbert. In fact, they're four of the same five people who polled behind Colbert in PPP's survey (PPP didn't ask about attorney Catherine Templeton.

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Stephen Colbert, host of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, testifies before a House Judiciary Committee Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law Subcommittee hearing regarding migrant farm workers and the agricultural industry on Capitol Hill in Washington on September 24, 2010. Colbert was invited to testify after he spent one farcical day as a farm laborer which he said was much harder than punditry. UPI/Roger L. WollenbergU.S. President Barack Obama addresses the American Nurses Association House of Delegates in Washington on June 16, 2010. President Obama spoke about health care reform legislation that was recently passed. UPI/Brendan Smialowski/Pool
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