Can Jeb Bush, Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden Get a Colbert Bump?
Policy + Politics

Can Jeb Bush, Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden Get a Colbert Bump?

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The real Stephen Colbert is already flexing his political muscle, booking Jeb Bush, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to be on his new Late Show over its first two weeks, with Bush slated to appear on tonight’s inaugural episode.

Colbert — or his blustery, self-aggrandizing persona as host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” — used to boast that politicians who appeared on his show would see a boost in popularity, which he termed the Colbert Bump. 

Related: Stephen Colbert: 9 Years of Epic ‘Truthiness’ Comes to an End

At least one study suggests that the bump was real, at least for some candidates. In 2008, University of California San Diego political scientist James Fowler found that Democrats who appeared on the show raised 44 percent more money after their appearance than before, while appearances by Republicans had no effect or a slightly negative one. At the time, Fowler attributed the findings to a ripple effect — someone who appears on Colbert’s show will receive more attention from mainstream media, meaning more attention from the general public. 

If that’s the case, the ripple effect from Colbert’s new Late Show could be especially large as viewers tune in to see how the real Stephen Colbert handles a talk show. And the presidential hopefuls are eager — maybe a bit too eager — to capitalize on it. Bush’s team sent out an email offering anyone who donated $3 to his campaign entry into a raffle for a trip to New York and a VIP ticket to the taping of the first Colbert Late Show.

If the former Florida governor was hoping for a fundraising bump to go with his Colbert Bump, the raffle may have backfired a bit. Colbert last week posted a video (see below) in which he mocked Bush’s raffle. “No one from Jeb’s campaign asked if this was ok with me to raise money off my first show,” Colbert said. “Where’s my cut of that sweet three bucks, governor, huh?” 

Related: There’s Only One Candidate People Actually Like – and It’s Not Trump or Bush

Colbert launched a raffle of his own, with all proceeds going to the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which supports injured service members and their families. Besides a ticket to the first show, the winner will also be able to suggest one “non-obscene” question for Colbert to ask Bush. 

The little spat is a reminder to candidates — being on Colbert’s bad side can be absolutely brutal. It’s a lesson that any Bush should know quite well.

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