In a week already overflowing with political news, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped one of the biggest bombshells in American history on Thursday night.
The unprecedented federal indictment of former U.S. president Donald Trump will fundamentally reshape the 2024 presidential campaign … or at least we suspect it will. As it did on the occasion of the first indictment of Trump two months ago, the Palmetto Political Stock Index will track the reverberations of this seismic development as they ripple across the “First in the South” presidential landscape.
What will those ripples and reverberations be? Who knows. The last indictment not only failed to hurt Trump with GOP voters … it actually boosted his standing. But more is coming – and Trump and his diehard supporters clearly had better batten down the hatches.
Assessing all this bracing and battening are our founding editor Will Folks and our political columnist Mark Powell, who have labored to produce this index for the past three months. Got a hot “stock tip” for their consideration? Email Will (here) and/ or Mark (here). Just make sure to include “Palmetto Political Stock Index” in the subject line.
Remember, our installment is simply a reflection of how individuals (or institutions) fared over the past week. It doesn’t necessarily root for candidates – or against them. Positive reports certainly don’t reflect endorsements, and negative ones don’t indicate a vendetta. We just call ‘em like we see ‘em. To borrow Walter Cronkite’s famous line, “That’s the way it is….” No more, no less.
Where should you invest your political capital this week? Let’s find out!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have suddenly awakened from a coma, you’ve heard by now of Trump’s latest indictment. It’s the first time a former president has ever been indicted on federal charges – and the first time a sitting president’s DOJ has indicted his top presidential rival. In other words, we find ourselves once again in uncharted political waters vis-à-vis Trump.
The point of this weekly temperature-taking of the body politic is neither to fend off nor to pile on. Ours is not to compliment nor criticize the DOJ’s decision to press criminal charges. Politicos and pundits of all stripes are amply covering that base. Our job is to gauge the impact this unprecedented action will have on the 2024 presidential campaign, but the plain unvarnished truth is that at this moment – less than 24 hours after the news broke – nobody knows for sure.
As mentioned in our lede, the last time Trump was indicted – by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg – his poll position actually improved.
Several of Trump’s Republican rivals have issued statements bemoaning the move by an out-of-control federal government, though most stopped short of overtly sympathizing with him. Meanwhile, Trump Haters are shedding tears of joy as the MAGA faithful rage at the top of their lungs.
Such reactions are predictable. But what about that tiny sliver of Americans who haven’t made up their mind one way or another? They are the ones who will ultimately provide the answer to the elusive calculus. If they decide justice has been served with the filing of these latest criminal charges, the Trump campaign is DOA. If, on the other hand, they conclude the DOJ has been weaponized and is pursuing a partisan witch hunt against Trump, he could very well live to fight another day.
Such delayed reaction is cold comfort to a country addicted to Instant Everything. However, an accurate answer as to how the federal indictment of Trump will impact his political standing is simply impossible at this given moment. The good news for Trump? He survived – and thrived – following his last indictment. The bad news? This probably won’t be the last time he gets indicted prior to the first presidential primary ballots being cast.
In the absence of a clear indicator regarding his fate following the filing of the federal indictment, Trump gets a “holding” rating this week.
In our hyper-toxic political climate it’s not often we get to see true eloquence. Authentic goodness. Genuine inspiration. And real optimism. But South Carolinians regularly get to see these traits from U.S. senator Tim Scott.
This past week, America got to see them …
Scott confronted race-baiting hosts Sunny Hostin and Whoopi Goldberg on ABC News’ The View after they unfairly attacked him for having “Clarence Thomas syndrome.” Scott did not respond with justified anger – or even righteous indignation. He didn’t yell. Or whine. Or complain. Instead, he calmly, respectfully – and masterfully – spoke of his own inspirational past (and that of his family).
“Progress in America is palpable,” Scott said. “It can be measured in generations. I look back at the fact that my grandfather, born in 1921 in Salley, South Carolina, when he was on a sidewalk and a white person was coming, he had to step off and not make eye contact. That man believed then, with some doubt now, in the goodness of America, because he believed that having faith in God, faith in himself, and faith in what the future could hold for his kids would unleash opportunities in ways that you cannot imagine.”
Bravo, Tim Scott.
This is precisely the sort of soaring, uplifting oratory – and authenticity – the 2024 race has been missing
When the history of the 2024 presidential campaign is written, it will likely be said this was the week when America learned what South Carolinians have known for the past dozen years: Nikki Haley is the undisputed queen of having it both ways. Except this time, her routine fell with a distinct “thud” on the national stage.
“Have It Both Ways Haley” was on full display during a 90-minute town hall from Iowa carried live on CNN Sunday night. One minute she played the sweet, demure sorority sister act we know so well; the next minute, she was channeling general George S. Patton with a tough-talking saber-rattling schtick designed (she thinks) to make the Kremlin, North Korea, and the rest of the world’s bad guys quake in their boots.
Haley got the kid glove treatment from CNN’s Jake Tapper, too, who by evening’s end was suffering from a sore shoulder due to all the softballs he had tossed her way. (Compare that to sheer mauling CNN Dragon Lady in Residence Kaitlan Collins gave Donald Trump at his town hall last month. Though in fairness, Trump mauled back as good as he got.)
Haley was still trying to have it both ways all this week. Her campaign sent nearly a dozen fundraising emails. In half of them, she took a victory lap where she did everything but pour a bucket of Gatorade over herself (“I made sure to have an honest discussion with the American people”); in the other half, she was playing the victim card, even calling out a fellow South Carolinian by name (“Bakari Sellers was armed with liberal talking points. First, he accused me of not having any real policy stances … Then, after the town hall was over, he called me a ‘white governor.’” Whereupon she proceeded to gleefully recite her old “I’m the proud daughter of Indian immigrants” routine.)
Here’s the kicker, though: After 90 minutes of primetime exposure on one of the biggest TV viewing nights of the week, with the spotlight all to herself no less, her poll numbers barely budged.
Is it time to switch from “Have It Both Ways Haley” to “Has Been Haley”?
SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER
Founded 52 years ago with the laudable goal of exposing racial prejudice, it’s no secret the SPLC deserted that mission long ago and went hard core far left. It has devolved into a sad farce these days by labeling anyone who disagrees with its radical ideology a “hate group.”
But the group went too far on Wednesday when it included Moms for Liberty in its “Year in Hate & Extremism” report for 2022. Fanatics like the SPLC simply cannot tolerate anyone with the sheer guts to stand up to an overreaching power-hungry government (at any level) and fight back. And so Moms for Liberty is now ranked alongside the Ku Klux Klan and skinhead Neo-Nazi punks.
One of the few encouraging rays of hope for America’s future to emerge in recent years is the Moms for Liberty grassroots movement. That’s exactly why worshippers at the throne of Big Government Über Alles, like the SPLC, are so terrified of it. And with good reason.
By smearing everyone who views things from a different perspective than theirs as “hate groups,” the SPLC practices the very tactics of actual hate groups. The irony is so thick you can choke on it.
Whatever you may think of his politics, former vice president Mike Pence is by all counts a good, decent man. Which gives his entry into the 2024 presidential campaign a certain degree of sadness. It’s like standing on the dock at Southampton and waving as the Titanic sets sail (only with the benefit of hindsight).
Because the result will be exactly the same …
Pence occupies the most unenviable lane in the GOP field. Having been the former president’s Veep makes him anathema to the Never Trumpers; running against his former boss makes him a traitor to the MAGA crowd. That leaves Pence with (to borrow from Martha and the Vandellas) “Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide.”
Plus, history isn’t on his side. The last Republican former VP who sought the top job was Dan Quayle (remember him?) He threw his hat into the ring in the 2000 race — until he was trounced so badly in the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa that he dropped out in September 1999. Ouch!
Still, the Palmetto Political Stock Index welcomes all entrants to the race with a courtesy “rising” rating. Barring an utter miracle, it will likely be Pence’s last one, too. Speaking of longshots, read on …
Guess what? North Dakota has a governor. And he’s running for president.
Doug Burgum officially joined the race for the White House Wednesday. That’s Burgum with a “b,” as in billionaire. Which he is.
Back in 1983, Burgum literally bet the family farm on a tech startup and hit the jackpot. Microsoft bought it in 2001 for $1.1 billion, with Burgum going on to head Microsoft Business Solutions. Not bad for a guy from Arthur, N.D. (Population 328).
A popular governor who was easily reelected to a second term in 2020, Burgam (who looks like a younger version of comedian Eugene Levy) is now going national. You may not have heard of him yet, but with plenty of cash in the bank, you may not be able to say that for long.
And let’s face it: We all know the real reason he’s running. Would you rather be campaigning in comfortable South Carolina next January and February or sit frozen inside the governor’s mansion in downtown Bismarck?
We rest our case …
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.
Could it be a case of history repeating itself? Probably not. But there are distinct echoes.
Democratic pols are scratching their heads these days, perplexed by the nearly 20 percent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is consistently drawing in polls against incumbent president Joe Biden – who thought he had cleared the field of credible challengers. True, his family name is fabled in political circles, and he’s certainly not worried about where the money for next month’s mortgage payment will come from. Yet his well-established anti-vax views are well outside the Democratic mainstream. So far out, in fact, if his last name was anything other than Kennedy, he’d be considered a fringe candidate.
But he is a Kennedy, after all, and here we are seven months from the start of the primary season with him showing respectable polling numbers.
That is already causing jitters at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where it’s starting to feel a lot like 1980 all over again.
Another unpopular Democratic president (Jimmy Carter) was running for a second term back then. And another Kennedy (Senator Ted, RFK Jr.’s uncle) jumped into the race and gave the incumbent a world of heartburn. While Carter was able to hold on to the Democratic nomination, Kennedy’s aggressive attacks highlighted the president’s many weaknesses – and helped pave the way for Ronald Reagan’s 44-state romp to victory in November.
RFK Jr. is no Ted Kennedy. But then, Joe Biden is no Jimmy Carter, either. Kennedy’s campaign is certainly worthy of continued close monitoring.
Well, that didn’t take long. Just five days after an incredibly lengthy — and incredibly damning — profile in The Atlantic was published, Chris Licht was out of a job as CNN’s head honcho (Licht did so much navel-gazing in that article, he gave Mark Sanford a run for his money).
After former boss Jeff Zucker lurched CNN so far into left field it was crossing the foul line, Licht attempted a course correction in the hopes of bringing the network back to the middle. Or at least the “middle-ish.” A series of missteps doomed him from the start, though, and The Atlantic fiasco proved one too many.
Its blatant political pandering aside, the network faces a bigger problem that’s impossible for Licht, Zucker or anyone else to fix. After 42 years, CNN has just plain outlived its usefulness.
When Ted Turner flipped the switch signing on the once-revolutionary network on June 1, 1980, satellite technology was in its infancy. For the first time ever, viewers could see major breaking news as it happened without waiting until the evening newscast. For better or worse, the 24-hour news cycle was born. Suddenly news, and even the world we live in itself, was different.
Fast forward to 2023. Today we have instantaneous news coverage — and more — in the palm of our hands. Say there’s breaking news that a jetliner has just crashed in Dallas. We no longer have to rush to the nearest TV set and turn on “the world’s most important network” (by its own admission). Within nanoseconds, we can surf directly to Dallas TV stations and watch their live coverage online. We can check the Dallas newspaper, follow live reactions on Twitter, and get updates the instant they’re available. Why bother with cable news?
Technology has left CNN in the dust. Just as CNN surpassed the Big Three TV networks before it. The way they surpassed radio. The way it surpassed newspapers. The way … well, it goes all the way back to the town crier. You get the idea.
CNN is rapidly becoming a relic. And there’s really nothing anyone can do it save it. Adios, old girl. You had a good run.
We don’t wish to appear as though we’re beating up on Bud Light week after week. But when the brewer keeps doing incredibly stupid things, it’s hard not to.
Apparently, the big brass at parent company Anheuser-Busch has never heard the old adage, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” Somebody needs to take the shovel away before the beleaguered company reaches the center of the Earth.
With the boycott triggered by the Dylan Mulvaney beer can debacle entering its third month (and as beer market analysts remain stunned by its financial staying power), Bud Light found the perfect way to make a bad situation even worse (to quote the Immortal Britney Spears, “Oops, they did it again”).
News reports indicate the beer giant is pressing ahead with plans to co-sponsor an “all-ages Pride event” in Flagstaff, Arizona. Dubbed “Pride in the Pines,” the June 17 gathering will feature drag queens and similar activities in a “family festival event.” The organizer’s website “proudly” displayed pictures of infants and children posing with drag queens.
This will really score you points with the customers who’re already pissed at you, Bud Light. That sound you hear in the background? It’s the hole you are in growing even deeper.
If fact, don’t look now but Bud Light’s incessant woke pandering has cost the brand its status as the best-selling beer in America. That honor now belongs to Modelo Especial.
The good Lord giveth, the good Lord taketh away. Well, our index taketh … but it is sometimes compelled to give back what it hath taken away based on a clearer view of the situation. Don’t blame us, blame instant replay. You know, “upon further review.”
Last week, we blasted U.S. congressman Jeff Duncan for voting in favor of lifting the federal government’s debt ceiling without first insisting on substantive spending cuts. Well, it turns out Duncan did insist on something during debt ceiling negotiations – specifically fast-track approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. This 303-mile artery will supply natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale fields to the southeast. It’s approval is a huge deal – especially after eco-radicals successfully blocked the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline back in 2020.
Is such sausage-making pretty to watch? Of course not. And it’s hardly the stuff of a meritocracy. But in dogging Duncan out for lending his imprimatur to the debt ceiling bill, we should point out he received something of value for his vote.
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