The crowd at the Stephen Colbert and Herman Cain rally knew what they were getting into the moment Colbert took the stage. He said he hoped this mob didn’t turn into an occupation because if it did, they would be pepper-sprayed in the politest way possible. After all, this is Charleston.
The event was held in a courtyard in front of Randolph Hall at the College of Charleston. Colbert is a native South Carolinian and he thanked himself for being there, “It’s good to be back home. Whoever said you can’t go home again did not have a friend with a private jet. It was easy.”
Students, Staff and the President at the Rally
Colbert said all these students skipping class gave him confidence that the future of our country was bright. He promised to write them all a note of excuse to get them out of their assignments.
But that was no joke to the crowd of about 3,500 students, staff and community members who were skipping their usual Friday afternoon requirements to be in the audience.
Geology Professor Lauren Humphreys was proud to be out there with her students and voluntarily rescheduled class in order to make it happen. She said she’s been a fan of Colbert’s for years and completely supported bringing him to Charleston to get students engaged.
“After watching his show for years, I’m really excited to see how he interacts with the campus,” said Humphreys, “He has a tendency to get people excited.”
Even the College of Charleston President, George Vincent, stepped out from a board meeting to wave at the crowd and support Cain, a longtime friend.
The biggest roars of laughter
There was no doubt that people came to this rally for the satirical commentary from the larger-than-life Colbert.
“Please, please do not sit down because there are no chairs, partly because of budget reasons but also because I will take a standing ovation whenever I can get it,” he quipped.
Despite the solid turnout at the rally, Colbert made sure to reference all those that were not present, including the other candidates.
“I want to salute all the other candidates in the race, and I think people are hungry for a positive campaign so I’m not going to go after this man’s opponents,” he said, referring to Cain.
But of course he actually did, and here are some of the best one-liners:
Romney: “The only difference between Romney and a statue of Mitt Romney is that the statue never changes its position. That’s not positive, not even to the statue.”
Paul: “It would be wrong to say that if you guessed Ron Paul’s real name that then he’d have to teach you how to spin straw into gold.”
Gingrich: “Not going to answer the gotcha question, ‘Am I interested in an open marriage?’ But I am flattered that Newt Gingrich asked me.”
Cain met Colbert on the crowd’s level when he chose to not only recite his infamous Pokemon speech but to sing it.
But this rally was not all jokes.
Despite the obvious humor at the rally, both Colbert and Cain had points to make about the importance of getting involved with the election.
Colbert told the crowd to vote for Herman Cain. Colbert said he had openly supported Cain for “several days now” because he’s got a 9-9-9 plan, a bus with his face on it, and possesses the one thing that Colbert will never have; a place on the South Carolina primary ballot.
But when Cain took the stage, he told the crowd not to vote for him and instead to work to change a broken and monetarily-broke government from the outside. He urged students and staff to change Washington by getting involved with a “citizen movement” and that he was endorsing ‘the people’ through his Cain Connections political action group, despite how much that might upset some people.
“Stephen Colbert asked you to vote for Herman Cain, I’m going to ask you to not vote for Herman Cain and here’s why – I don’t want you to waste your vote,” said Cain, “One of the things that a lot of people fail to realize is that every vote counts.”
Colbert closed the rally by telling the crowd to make their voice heard. He said, “Vote for who Herman tells you to vote for, or vote for who I told you to vote for, just don’t forget to vote.”
So what was the take away?
If there was one thing that I learned at this rally it is that College of Charleston students are frustrated with politics in their state. When Colbert attempted to thank Governor Nikki Haley and was immediately cut off by a collective “Boo” from the crowd. Any joke that targeted the GOP candidates was met with roaring laughter.
Multiple students said they were not registered to vote because, prior to this rally, they did not see the point in it. A few said that after hearing from both speakers they saw the need to vote in elections and would probably register to vote by November. But even the ones that had made up their mind were not thrilled with their options.
“I’m voting for Gingrich because I agree with his nice, conservative policies,” said Megan Lynch, 22, a psychology student at Charleston.
“I feel like I connect a lot with Ron Paul as a younger generation,” said Meg Shruggs, 21, who is an English and political science major, “I agree with his war on drugs and political strategies.”
None of the dozen or so individuals I interviewed at the rally showed support for Santorum or Romney.
Professor Humphrey said that if she had to cast her vote today, she would probably vote Democrat.
But that if she had it her way, she’d be electing Colbert.