This week we saw a former president’s history-making court appearance, a famous name throwing his hat into the ring and a local-girl-made-good rallying the hometown troops behind her …
And that was just the top line activity from a very busy week in presidential politics …
As the dust began to settle from former U.S. president Donald Trump’s historic indictment, most of the early directional fallout seemed to be helping the man at the center of the storm – at least insofar as his 2024 GOP presidential primary calculus was concerned.
Is Trump back to where he was with the GOP faithful prior to the 2022 election cycle? No. But the latest aggregate polling data from RealClearPolitics is looking pretty good for him … and the upward momentum may not yet be exhausted.
Like financial stock indices, the Palmetto Political Stock Index is not necessarily a projection of where candidates are heading – and it certainly isn’t meant to predict how elections will turn out. Many of the names we bandy about in this format will drop out of contention long before the first ballots are counted. The index is merely a snapshot of a specific moment in time — this week, to be precise.
For your historical fix, click here.
The Palmetto Political Stock 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/ or Mark ([email protected]). Just make sure to include “Palmetto Political Stock Index” in the subject line.
Where should you invest your political capital this week? Let’s take a look …
If cameras, TV airtime, and news article column space amounted to votes, Donald Trump would be reelected in a landslide. His Tuesday arraignment drew media coverage to rival the Second Coming of Christ (just in time for Easter, no less). Seriously, no single event has dominated the news so thoroughly since COVID came calling.
But coverage alone does not a winning campaign make. Luckily for Trump, other important metrics (polling, campaign contributions and public expressions of support from GOP leaders amid his legal woes) were all up, up, up.
(Read more on that here).
Now comes the key question: Can Trump sustain it? A myriad of other (more serious) legal challenges loom on the horizon for him, which means more indictments in unrelated cases are possible – likely, even. Trump is clearly in the GOP driver’s seat as spring blooms, but will he still be there when the leaves change this fall?
That depends in large part on how Trump’s court dramas play out … but it also depends on his 2024 rivals.
The former veep got some news he didn’t want to hear this week: A U.S. district court judge ruled he must testify before the federal grand jury looking into the January 6, 2021 rioting at the U.S. Capitol building. It’s easy to see why Pence wouldn’t want to drag that ball and chain along with him on the campaign trail. He already occupies the most unenviable lane of them all. Running against his former boss has ticked off Trump Lovers while his former status as MAGA’s #2 makes him persona non grata to Trump Haters.
Pence was already facing long odds, but being hauled before this grand jury made his uphill climb even steeper.
It was another week of treading water for DeSantis. He’s still reeling from the shiny black eye he got in his ongoing game of cat and mouse with Disney. To recap: Florida passed what opponents (wrongly) labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Disney spoke out against it. DeSantis acted swiftly by stripping the corporate giant of power in its self-governing district in the Orlando area. Conservatives cheered and the Right had a new hero.
But the mouse had a trick up its sleeve that turned the situation into a mouse trap. The company used an obscure legal loophole to maintain its control. Ouch!
DeSantis is putting the best face on it he can. He’s seeking an investigation into the special district and has brushed off the whole thing as “a lot of back-and-forths.” But his nascent campaign-in-waiting suddenly finds itself in a kind of sophomore slump that the governor needs to overcome sooner than later.
Can he? He better regain momentum fast because other Republican rivals (actual and potential) aren’t remaining in a holding pattern …
If you had any doubts about the seriousness of the senator’s presidential ambitions, these two names will dispel them: Matt Moore and Mark Knoop. These two veteran politicos have been brought on board to run South Carolina operations for a political action committee called Opportunity Matters Fund Action – which is backing Scott.
Moore is a former S.C. Republican Party state chairman with deep ties to the senator. Knoop is rapidly becoming the SCGOP’s go-to guy in high-profile races. Rest assured, both have better things to do than blow time on a ‘maybe, maybe not’ endeavor. With all systems appearing to be “go” for Scott ’24, could chants of “Run, Tim, Run” be very far off?
It doesn’t look that way. We are hearing an announcement from Scott could come as soon as this month … which would officially kick off the most important regional undercard battle of the 2024 primary.
It was happy homecoming for the governor-turned-ambassador this week. Haley drew an enthusiastic crowd at a rally Thursday evening in Gilbert, S.C. – part of the Lexington County GOP bastion where it all began for her as a state representative many moons ago. Playing to the home crowd was a safe bet for Haley. It kept her profile up while buying time for her to see how Trump’s indictment eventually played out.
Remember, Haley got out way in front of her skis two years ago when she pilloried Trump in the immediate aftermath of the January 6 riots — and she was swiftly and seriously dinged by the GOP base as a result. This time she’s playing it smart by playing it safe.
One thing is clear: Haley will not lack for the resources to get her message out. Already a skilled hand at shaking the money tree, she seems to be outdoing herself in this contest. Haley has reportedly hauled in more than $11 million in just six weeks, according to fundraising totals released by her campaign.
Will the cash keep rolling in if Trump’s poll numbers keep shooting higher, though? And what happens to Haley when DeSantis, Scott and others enter the race?
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.
It’s official: Democratic icon Bobby Kennedy’s namesake filed his declaration of candidacy in New Hampshire’s First-in-the-Nation presidential primary this week. The author and anti-vax activist promised to “restore American democracy” in a tweet last month to his 851,000 Twitter followers. That, and the Kennedy name, are not to be taken lightly.
His entry into the race is creating fresh headaches for his party’s chief (more on that in a minute) … which may be exactly what Kennedy wants.
Certainly the glory days of Camelot are 60+ years in the rearview mirror – and just how much magic remains in the Kennedy name (even in ultra-liberal New England) is questionable. Plus, Kennedy brings with him a trainload of baggage from his extreme views as a vaccination opponent.
But the 69-year-old RFK, Jr. also brings something else to the race. His wife, actress Cheryl Hines, played Larry David’s wife in the HBO comedy hit “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Kennedy promises, “We’ll have the funniest First Lady in history” if he wins.
New Hampshire just got more interesting, if nothing else.
Just when it seemed Biden would make it through a full week without sustaining a self-inflicted wound … he didn’t. On Thursday, the White House released its 12-page review of 2021’s bungled U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and placed the blame squarely at Donald Trump’s feet.
Most presidents play the “it was the guy who was here before me’s fault” card – and more often than not, Americans let them get away with it — for a while. Nearly twenty-seven months into the Biden administration, though, the “Blame Trump” act is wearing increasingly thin.
Biden is facing a new threat on his left flank and the sudden realization he may have painted himself into a political corner in 2024. Obviously there’s no love lost been Biden and New Hampshire Dems. He finished a dismal sixth there in 2008 and only marginally better in 2020 (fifth). Like a Mafia boss settling an old score, he orchestrated last year’s reshuffling of the Democratic primary lineup, stripping New Hampshire of its cherished FITN place at the start of the pack and giving it to South Carolina instead. It’s now a big no-no for a serious Democratic candidate to even set foot in New Hampshire.
Kennedy is refusing to play by those rules. Likewise, Marianne Williamson. If POTUS’s political position deteriorates over the summer and fall, he’ll face a major dilemma. Does he stick with his revised playbook and focus solely on the Palmetto State while putting himself in danger of losing the Granite State for a third time? (Right out of the starting gate, no less.) Or does he violate the rules he decreed and campaign in New Hampshire after all? The potential for a nasty mess now exists. And if it happens, Joe Biden will have no one to blame but Joe Biden for creating it.
For a guy who supposedly isn’t running for president, the California governor looks an awful lot like someone who is. And why shouldn’t he? When the head of your party’s approval rating is so low he rivals Typhoid Mary, it’s smart to be on standby. Like a hungry shark, Newsom is circling in the water just in case the SS Biden goes down.
He demonstrated that again by popping up this week on a Florida college campus that’s been Ground Zero in the Sunshine State’s Culture War. Newsom reassured put-upon Lefty snowflakes, “I’m crawling out of my skin for you (whatever that means) I want you to know you’re not alone. You matter.” The foray outside of his epidermis was actually about fence mending as this one-time progressive pinup boy has been moving more toward the middle (although California has lurched so far to the left on his watch, he’d need the strength of an Olympic pole vaulter to get anywhere near the vicinity of common ground). The “Wokelings” on the Far Left, who are always on the lookout for something to anger them, aren’t happy about it.
Actions speak louder than words, and Newsom is hoping his 2,882-mile flight from Sacramento to Sarasota shows he’s ready to kiss and make up with them. Not exactly the actions of someone expecting to cool his heels on the sidelines in 2024, is it?
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