South Carolina: Jon Huntsman in a tight race with...

They may be talking about a possible, last minute Huntsman surge up in New Hampshire, but it would appear that his fortunes may not be on the rise in South Carolina. It would be understandable for the former Ambassador to China to struggle when competing against noted conservative candidates such as Santorum in this race, but he’s apparently also losing to… Stephen Colbert, who isn’t even on the ballot.

Stephen Colbert wanted to sponsor the South Carolina Republican primary. He wanted his name on the ballot and he wanted a referendum about whether corporations are people or only people are people. He was rebuffed in his efforts but 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. Here’s what we found:

-5% of primary voters would pick Colbert. He runs behind Mitt Romney’s 27%, Newt Gingrich’s 23%, Rick Santorum’s 18%, Ron Paul’s 8%, and Rick Perry’s 7%. But’s he beating out Jon Huntsman’s 4% and Buddy Roemer’s 1%.

Even if Huntsman finishes second in New Hampshire tonight it doesn’t speak well for his prospects down the line that he’s running behind Stephen Colbert.

Colbert actually did try to run for president in 2008, but only in his home state. This time the story was a bit more convoluted. The comedian wasn’t trying to get on the ballot as a candidate. He wanted his name on the ballot, offering the cash strapped state GOP a half million dollars to help pay for the cost of the election if they would rename the event, “The Colbert Super PAC South Carolina Republican Primary.” And for a while it almost looked like it might happen, except he also wanted a referendum question added to the ballot, asking voters if they thought corporations were people, or if only people were people.

The deal fell apart, but as PPP indicates, he may have highlighted a warning sign for Mitt Romney down there.

While Colbert’s prospects for actually winning in South Carolina may have been limited, he would have found support on his proposed referendum. Just 33% of likely voters think that ‘corporations are people’ compared to 67% who think that ‘only people are people.’ Supporters of every Republican candidate believe that ‘only people are people,’ even 66% of Mitt Romney’s whose comments inspired this debate in the first place.

Fortunately, with Colbert off the ballot, Huntsman may find room to expand his appeal and move into the high single digits by next week.