Some of Barack Obama’s prominent supporters were among the most strident in keeping Stephen Colbert off the South Carolina ballot.
The thinking is that Colbert, as a protest candidate, could siphon younger voters who may have otherwise gone to Obama. The state Democratic executive committee voted 13-3 to keep him off, a move that ended his presidential bid.
CNN and the New York Times report that among them was Inez Tenenbaum, the former state superintendent of education, an Obama backer who made calls to the Democratic executive council to keep Colbert off the ballot. She denied lobbying for it, but told CNN, “I called them to see what they were thinking and if they had made up their mind. I am a volunteer in that campaign, and so I am not a staffer. And I thought it could have taken votes away from a lot of people.”
Also lobbying against Colbert was Don Fowler, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and husband of the state’s party chair, Carol Fowler.
He told the New York Times, “I am conscious of the fact that the Obama people are concerned about the potential effect, but that in no sense was the reason that I wrote that letter,” he said. Rather, he said, he wanted an orderly process. “For somebody to make light of that process as if it were his own little play toy, that is offensive,” he said. “We would be the laughing stock of America. Electing the president is serious business.”
Obama’s campaign denied any involvement.
“Democrats in South Carolina, including supporters of ours, had strong feelings on both sides of the ballot issue, and ultimately it was South Carolina Democrats who made this decision,” said Obama’s South Carolina communications director Kevin Griffis.
One Obama supporter did lobby for Colbert, according to the Times. Dick Harpootlian, the former chairman of the state Democratic party, said, “I think humor plays a big role in politics. To sit around dour-faced discussing macro-economics, good golly. Most of us got involved in politics because it was fun.”