By Kim Geiger, Tribune Washington Bureau –
WASHINGTON — Jon Huntsman, who initially staked his presidential campaign on New Hampshire, now heads to South Carolina, where a recent poll shows him trailing even satirical television host Stephen Colbert.
Colbert, who attempted unsuccessfully to buy naming rights for the first-in-the-South primary, is not a candidate in the race. But a new survey by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling shows Colbert beating Huntsman if his name were to appear on the primary ballot on Jan. 21.
It’s not entirely surprising that Colbert would poll better than Huntsman. Colbert grew up in South Carolina. And he is probably better known than Huntsman, who was generally ignored for much of the run-up to the primary season because of his low poll numbers and a strategy that focused almost entirely on New Hampshire, a state that was viewed as Mitt Romney’s territory from the beginning.
Still, the poll is further embarrassment for the candidate who placed a distant third in New Hampshire on Tuesday night.
The survey found Romney leading in South Carolina with 27 percent support among likely primary voters, followed by Newt Gingrich with 23 percent, Rick Santorum with 18 percent, Ron Paul with 8 percent and Rick Perry with 7 percent. Colbert had 5 percent, beating out Huntsman’s 4 percent and Buddy Roemer’s 1 percent.
Huntsman made light of the situation Tuesday afternoon before the polls closed in New Hampshire.
“Well when I was on his show recently he promised me the ‘Colbert bump,’” Huntsman said in an interview with Fox News. “I think we are getting that here in New Hampshire, now I am going to be looking for the Colbert bump in South Carolina.”
For Colbert, the poll was a consolation prize after his failed attempt to pay, via his so-called super PAC, for the cost of conducting the Republican primary. Under that deal — which fell through under objections from the state Supreme Court — Colbert would have been granted the right to name the primary and have the ballots include a referendum about whether “corporations are people,” or “only people are people.”
“Our team at PPP decided if he couldn’t get all that stuff on the actual ballot, we could at least poll it for him,” PPP’s Tom Jensen wrote in an analysis of the poll results.
The survey found that 67 percent of likely voters believe “only people are people,” while 33 percent believe “corporations are people.”