The phase of the 2024 presidential campaign in which we currently find ourselves is a lot like the final warm-up lap of the Indianapolis 500 – in which would-be and announced candidates maneuver into position in search of a lane that will lead them to victory.
Some start at the front of the pack, some start way, way back in the rear … but they’re all in search of the same thing: An opening.
So it was this past week. While one name overshadowed all others in terms of media coverage (ahem), the supporting cast of characters was far from idle …
Who’s up? And who’s down? As the road to the White House grows louder from the din of engines firing up, the FITSNews Political Stock Index cuts through the noise to bring you our best assessment of this still-assembling pack – as well as the Palmetto politicos angling for their own accolades.
Every Friday, we assess the performance of various candidates (actual and prospective) looking to make 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue their next home. We also take inventory of Palmetto State players whose moves could shape the future of their state – and the ever-evolving ‘First in the South’ presidential calculus.
Miss last week’s index? Click here.
The index is compiled weekly by our founding editor Will Folks and our intrepid columnist Mark Powell. Got a hot “stock tip” for their consideration? Email Will ([email protected]) and Mark ([email protected]) and make sure to include “political stock index” in the subject line.
Where should you invest your political capital this week? To the index!
Using his veto pen for the first time, Biden killed a GOP favorite: A resolution which would have blocked “woke” guidelines on how retirement fund managers handle their clients’ money. Under the rule rescued by Biden, managers no longer focus solely on “fiduciary” concerns; instead, they can factor in Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues like a company’s global warming policy or its board’s racial makeup. Even if that means lower returns to investors. Liberals loved the veto while Republicans are more determined than ever to make Biden a one-termer.
Oh, and did we mention this ESG issue is cropping up in connection with a big “economic development” issue here in the Palmetto State? Pay attention, “First in the South” candidates …
National polls may show him slipping somewhat, but Florida’s feisty governor doesn’t shy away from a fight. In a high-profile Fox News interview Thursday night he pulled no punches blasting former U.S. president Donald Trump. And he showed he can pivot with the best of them. Asked about the “Ron DeSanctimonious” nickname his rival heaped upon him, DeSantis replied, “I don’t know how to spell sanctimonious.”
“You can call me whatever you want — just as long as you also call me a winner because that’s what we’ve been able to do in Florida,” he said.
DeSantis’ supporters say they’re “Ready for Ron;” but is Trump?
Staring down criminal charges would normally be the kiss of death for a candidate. But proving yet again there’s one set of political rules for Trump and another for everyone else, POTUS 45 is feeling invigorated. Any publicity is good publicity, they say, and Trump is savoring the place he loves most (the limelight) while reveling in the role he loves above all others (the victim of a “woke” district attorney gone wild).
Although Trump had not been indicted as of this writing, he dominated the headlines for a full week and is poised to receive a major cash infusion from mom-and-pop small-dollar donors as a result. Is playing 2024’s Joan of Arc enough to fend off the growing ranks of GOP challengers? Time will tell. But right now, The Donald’s stock is clearly on the uptick amongst Republican primary voters …
He’s booked a big donor weekend in Charleston and trips to Iowa and New Hampshire in April. It looks more likely than ever that Scott’s 2024 presidential campaign is being rolled onto the launchpad. While the Palmetto State’s junior senator remain as popular as he is with the SGGOP base in a presidential setting? Or will two candidates fighting for the same home state turf prove one too many?
Both Scott and Nikki Haley have massive war chests – and don’t need to spend money to build networks and earn name identification in South Carolina. But which one of them will win over the home state voters? And can either one of them break into the top tier with Trump and DeSantis?
As the New Hampshire governor ponders entering the 2024 race, he’s basking in the glow of a new study rating the Granite State No. 1 in the nation for return on taxpayer investment (based on taxes, spending, and government efficiency). That’s music to fiscal conservatives’ ears. But Sununu is also ragingly moderate on social issues. (Exhibit A: He refused to even comment on a GOP-sponsored Parents’ Bill of Rights that went down in flames in the New Hampshire House on Wednesday).
How would that approach play in deeply conservative South Carolina? Let’s ask the next contender on our list …
Vivek, who? Don’t laugh. The multimillionaire businessman and author is more than just another political gadfly indulging in a vanity campaign. His courageous confronting of “woke-ism” is building a buzz in GOP circles. (Example: He posted a video Wednesday night calling out Sununu’s lack of leadership on a state parental bill of rights). Ramaswamy has a long way to go to reach top-tier candidate territory, but the fact we’re talking about him shows he’s at least on his way.
Ramaswamy also received RAVE reviews at a recent gathering of social conservatives in Charleston, S.C. last weekend, making some positive first impressions with a key “First in the South” demographic.
Lots of politicians play it safe with their political capital – and perhaps Wilson will wind up doing just that. But early indications are he wants to use the boost he received from the state’s ‘Trial of the Century’ – the prosecution of convicted killer Alex Murdaugh – to make real changes to the way South Carolina’s judicial selection process works. Wilson – the frontrunner for the 2026 GOP gubernatorial nomination – is readying a big coalition announcement this coming week in Columbia, S.C., so he could conceivably see his stock climb even higher.
If he leads a bipartisan coalition that actually secures meaningful changes to the current method of picking judges? There’s literally no ceiling to his potential …
Last fall, Finlay narrowly lost his seat in the S.C. House of Representatives – putting him out of office after a decade-and-half of public service. This week, public service appears to want Finlay back – with state lawmakers eyeing him for the job of comptroller general.
Why is this gig open? That would be the next name on our list …
STOCK: FIRE SALE!
As we predicted in this space last week, the Fat Lady has sung for comptroller general Richard Eckstrom. With the legislative sharks circling, he decided to jump ship rather than hang around and walk the plank – which certainly appears to have been a wise move. As his looming resignation (effective April 30) and eventual replacement by lawmakers continues to dominate discussion under the dome of the S.C. State House, let’s not forget the lingering effects of the $3.5 billion “Oopsie!” his office made – and how the state intends to deal with those consequences.
Tom Davis kind of lost his mind on the floor of the South Carolina Senate this week … which doesn’t always end well. After getting stabbed in the back by several of his colleagues who had promised to support him on the issue of medical marijuana, Davis delivered an emotional diatribe evocative of Jefferson Smith. Or according to some, Howard Beale. Luckily for the veteran legislator, it seems more people admired him for his unfiltered, unflinching honesty than were offended by his no-holds-barred outburst. Davis’ impassioned remarks might have even succeeded in flipping the script on this issue – as sources say the Senate could wind up taking up the medical marijuana bill next week.
Whatever happens, it was nice to see something authentic unfold in the S.C. Senate chamber for a change … and see people respond positively to that authenticity.
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