Hillary Clinton looks to Colbert bump in Pennsylvania

By Carol Eisenberg

April 15, 2008 at 11:56am

Hillary Rodham Clinton will try to exploit the much-vaunted “Colbert bump” by appearing on Stephen Colbert’s Comedy Central show Thursday night.

Both Clinton and Colbert have come to Pennsylvania ahead of the key Democratic primary in Pennsylvania next Tuesday. The mock pundit is taping his show at the University of Pennsylvania’s 900-seat Zellerbach Theater - the first time he has broadcast away from his New York studio.

Barack Obama has thus far declined Colbert’s invitation, but his wife, Michelle, will make an appearance tonight.

History proves that dissing Colbert could be a mistake. A political scientist recently proved that the ‘bump’ that Colbert boasts he delivers for politicians is verifiable.

In a straight-faced study, James Fowler, an associate professor of political science at the University of California-San Diego, conducted an analysis of the political consequences of a candidate’s appearance on the Colbert Report, and found that Democratic candidates who dare to go on the show, in particular, experience a huge “bump” in campaign contributions after the broadcast, no matter how silly Colbert made them look.

Colbert has frequently interjected himself into the presidential campaign. Last fall, he sought unsuccessfully to get his own name on the ballot for both the Democratic and Republican primaries in his home state of South Carolina as a “favorite son.” He even paid the requisite $2,500 filing fee before being rejected by state election officials.

In the lead-up to that race, after Obama made a crack that Colbert didn’t look like he grew up eating grits, Colbert responded by challenging the Illinois senator to a “grit-off,” as he ate a bowl of it on the show.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee also appeared on the Emmy award-winning show several times last fall, and attributed his come-from-behind victory in Iowa to the bump.

The show has not publicly confirmed Clinton’s appearance. News of the visit was divulged Monday night in Philadelphia by MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews, who blurted it out during taping. The appearance was confirmed by a person close to the satirical news program, who insisted on anonymity, according to the Associated Press.

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