Colbert says his US presidential run is no joke

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WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) Comedian Stephen Colbert insisted today that his ambition to run for president was no joke -- then joked he would consider disgraced Republican Sen Larry Craig as a vice presidential running mate.

''I don't want to be president. I want to run for president.

There's a difference,'' the host of Comedy Central's ''The Colbert Report'' said in a television interview.

''I'm far realer than Sam Brownback, let me put it that way,'' he told NBC's ''Meet the Press'' in a reference to Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, who dropped out of the 2008 White House race on Friday.

Colbert, whose pugnacious egomaniacal TV persona routinely mocks conservative talk shows, hopes to run in both the Republican and Democratic primaries in his native South Carolina ''because I'd like to lose twice.'' Colbert said he had not spoken to Craig, who is embroiled in a sex scandal after being snared in an airport men's room by an undercover officer who said Craig had solicited him for sex.

Colbert explained his strategy was to win enough votes to receive a single South Carolina delegate to next year's Democratic presidential convention.

''Why else run as a favorite son if you're not going to broker a convention? And if I get a delegate, it will be a brokered convention -- unless they offer me to let me speak, then maybe I would turn over my delegate,'' he said.

South Carolina's The State newspaper reported that Colbert has already affected the campaign. His solicitation to viewers for donations to a Web site to help state schoolteachers has raised more than 13,000 dollars, dwarfing donations in the names of two top Democratic rivals -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen Barack Obama of Illinois.

REUTERS GL KN2318

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