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2024

Palmetto Political Stock Index: 8/13/2023

Careening toward a 2020 rematch …

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Remember the good old days when candidates agreed to disagree – and trusted voters to sort out who was right? Or when voters actually had intelligent conversations about candidates – and how the policies they advanced might impact their daily lives for better or worse?

Yeah … those days are long gone, people. America’s descent into full-on, tribal factionalism is accelerating at warp speed. Candidates now seek not merely to defeat their rivals, but to humiliate them, denigrate them, even imprison them. Meanwhile, increasingly vitriolic keyboard warriors egg them on in partisan/ ideological echo chambers with escalating shrillness.

Such was the backdrop for the 2020 election, and barring a sudden, seismic shift in political tectonics … such will be the backdrop in a 2024 rematch.

Making sense of all this escalating insanity? The Palmetto Political Stock Index …

FITSNews founding editor Will Folks and political columnist Mark Powell compile this barometer each week – tracking the rising and falling fortunes of individuals and institutions as well as the interplay of state and national politics in our early-voting home of South Carolina, home to the “First in the South” presidential primary.

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A special prosecutor brings big smiles to the Biden syndicate …

The Trump train chugs ahead at full steam …

“Iceberg ahead” for the S.S. DeSantis?

Another South Carolina veep?

As we often note, this index is simply an assessment of how those enumerated fared over the past week. Positive reports certainly don’t reflect endorsements, and negative ones aren’t at all indicative of vendettas. 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. 

Also, just because your favorite (or least favorite) politician didn’t wind up on this week’s list doesn’t mean we aren’t still tracking them. Look for them to appear in future indices … and, of course, you can always check prior installments to see how we’ve covered them in the past. To view last week’s edition, click here. And to get your historical fix, click here.

Got a hot “stock tip” for our consideration? Email Will (here) and/ or Mark (here). Just make sure to include “Palmetto Political Stock Index” in the subject line.

Where you should invest your political capital this week? To the index!

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JOE BIDEN

STOCK: RISING

U.S. president Joe Biden’s Department of Justice appoints a federal prosecutor to look into first son Hunter Biden’s sleazy business dealings — and his dad’s stock rises? How can that be?

Because it’s Washington, D.C., and just like a carnival funhouse’s Hall of Mirrors, nothing is ever the way it seems.

On the surface, having federal investigators snooping deeper into one’s personal financial affairs is hardly a reason to cheer. But in typical Beltway fashion, the appointment of U.S. attorney David C. Weiss is about politics, not justice. 

By bumping Weiss to the role of special prosecutor, the Biden Syndicate can actually breathe easier. A special prosecutor’s active probe typically supersedes subpoenas to testify before congressional committees. With the Republican-controlled House oversight committee getting a little too close to Hunter’s shady transactions for comfort, it sure seems the DOJ made a preemptive strike.

By tapping the always-dependable Weiss for the job, any worries about criminal charges coming before the 2024 election are now laid to rest. After all, Weiss was the guy who signed off on Hunter’s sweetheart plea deal – which would have let him off with only a slap on the wrist (until a judge more interested in justice than appeasing the powers that be slammed the judicial brakes on it).

While Biden backers are smiling at this development, it’s a good thing the statue of Themis – the Greek goddess of justice standing just outside the U.S. Supreme Court Building – is blindfolded. That way, we’re spared seeing her cry.

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RON DeSANTIS

STOCK: FALLING

With apologies to Mr. Shakespeare, now is the summer of Ron DeSantis’ discontent. The Florida governor just can’t catch a break this cycle – and it seems the accumulation of all that bad luck/ poor planning/ failed execution is finally catching up with him.

Coming off the heels of a decisive reelection bid last November when he routed his Democratic opponent in a landslide (59.4 to 40 percent, a plurality of 1.5 million, victory in all but five of Florida’s 67 counties), DeSantis appeared to be a modern St. George poised to slay the GOP’s dragon (Trump).

Not only that, he did it as a far right conservative in a swing state – reinforcing the belief of many in the GOP that cultural currents were moving in their direction if only they could get rid of the albatross known as Trump.

That was then. Nine months later, DeSantis’ campaign is dangling by an increasingly fraying thread.

On Tuesday, campaign manager Generra Peck walked the plank, replaced by longtime DeSantis’ aide James Uthmeier. In political parlance, that act of desperation is usually described with the cliché, “It’s like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” But when your poll numbers are dropping so low (and falling lower each week) that you can view the Titanic’s wreckage at eye level, the simile works.

DeSantis’ entire campaign has been a gigantic pooch screw from the start. First, he dillydallied about formally announcing while other famous names were jumping into the race. That gave influential backers and big bucks donors a serious case of the jitters. When he formally took the plunge back in May via a much-ballyhooed Twitter Live feed with CEO Elon Musk, technical glitches kept viewers on hold for over twenty minutes. While DeSantis’ rivals and the Democratic Echo Chamber (a.k.a. the mainstream media) had a field day mocking the marred curtain raising, political pros were baffled by an even bigger question: Why begin a high-profile campaign on a media platform many conservatives just don’t use? As one observer sardonically said afterward, “More Republicans would have seen him on (liberal MSNBC’s) Rachael Maddow than on Twitter.”

More recently, there was the unpleasant (and needless) spat with blacks and academics about the role of slavery in public school history lessons. Then there was his far from warm reception (to put it mildly) Saturday at the Iowa State Fair.

We could go on and on, but there’s no need. DeSantis’ 2024 bid has been one self-inflicted paper cut after another. No one dies from a single paper cut, but you can eventually bleed to death if you sustain enough of them. DeSantis appears to be nearing that point now.

He has one last best chance remaining to jump-start his momentum: A knockout performance in this month’s big GOP debate in Milwaukee. The only problem is all the other participants that night will be trying for the very same thing.  

It’s not yet time for the political coroner to fill out the DeSantis campaign’s death certificate. Though it would make sense to keep a copy handy.

(Oh, and speaking of dark humor, check out the hilarious video satire of DeSantis’ predicament that’s making the rounds. Just when you thought all those “Downfall” parodies set in Hitler’s bunker were finished, it turns out there was room for one more).

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DONALD TRUMP

STOCK: RISING

When former president Donald Trump was first indicted on criminal charges last March, we noted “time would tell” how the unprecedented legal moves against him would impact his chances of winning the GOP presidential nomination. Five months, three legal cases, and 78 criminal counts later (with a fourth indictment drawing ever nearer in Georgia) we now know the answer: Not much.

Trump is as strong as he’s ever been with the GOP base – which appears to have been the Democrats’ point.

Trump’s polling in the crowded Republican field remains remarkably high. In fact, it seems the more charges are heaped on him, the higher his numbers go. This makes a tall order for his GOP rivals even taller. They were splintering the anti-Trump vote to begin with – but now political pros of all stripes are openly speculating that Trump’s lead had become insurmountable.  

This was reflected by a shift in Trump’s tactics last week. At campaign events, he focused his fire almost exclusively on president Joe Biden. Remarks about his Republican rivals were few and far between. That’s the hallmark of a candidate who believes he has the nomination in the bag and is already looking toward the general election, even when it’s still fifteen months off.

The GOP field and the Democrats’ echo chamber (again, for those who weren’t paying attention earlier, the mainstream media) are already pressing Trump about skipping the first GOP debate of the cycle scheduled for August 23 in Milwaukee Wisconsin. But from Trump’s perspective, why should he hang out with a bunch of people beating up on him like a piñata? He has lots to lose and little to gain by participating.

Still, expect to hear, “Why isn’t Trump going to the debate?” asked with increasing volume over the next ten days – unless he changes his mind and decides to attend.

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MIKE PENCE

STOCK: FALLING

When former veep Mike Pence’s campaign rolled out a new commercial last week, it probably hoped people would talk about it. And they are. Just not the way the campaign wanted.

It all started with Mike “See, I’m A Regular Guy” Pence standing at a gas station, ready to fill up the tank of a shiny red pick-up truck.

Pence dutifully removes the nozzle and inserts it into the fuel tank. But as he tries to deliver his “we’re paying through the nose for energy these days, that sucks, and it’s all Joe Biden’s fault,” message, viewers’ attention is repeatedly distracted by a “beep, beep, beep” heard over and over off-camera.

Anyone who’s ever stopped at a self-serve station at some point in their lives (a.k.a. 99.9 percent of Americans) immediately recognized the beeping as the sound the pump makes for the customer to insert his credit card. Apparently, Pence doesn’t spend much time filling up because he blissfully soldiers on through the commercial as the signal screeches behind him.

If you’ve ever been around a presidential campaign, then you know the candidate doesn’t go anywhere without a dozen (or more) staffers hovering around him. Add to that however many people were on the video production crew that taped this commercial. Did it really not occur to any of these people that an endless “beep, beep, beep” probably shouldn’t be blaring in the background?

Instead of connecting with Pence, people were laughing at him. That’s not a sound strategy for winning votes … but then again as we noted in last week’s index Pence’s entire 2024 candidacy appears to be an exercise in irrelevancy.

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ALAN WILSON

STOCK: RISING

You only turn fifty once, so why not make the most of it? That’s what South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson is doing. Though he actually hit the semi-centennial mark last month, he’s celebrating with a big bash in Columbia this Thursday evening. Given the Wilson’s growing popularity amongst the state’s Republican electorate, it should be a grand old time for this rising star in the Grand Old Party.

Like any political gathering, the hat will be passed, and it’s a safe bet when the evening’s take is counted up, it will be a handsome increase to Wilson’s already impressive war chest. That bulging bank account is one of several reasons why Wilson is widely viewed as a (the?) leading South Carolina statewide candidate ahead of the 2026 elections.

Which office will he seek, though?

Two-(and-a-half) term governor Henry McMaster will finally shuffle off into the sunset then, opening up this office for the first time in a decade. Then there is the Tim Scott wild card. What if South Carolina’s junior U.S. senator winds up as a running mate on a winning 2024 ticket? Or, what if Scott decides he’s tired of D.C. after his presidential bid wraps up and opts to run for governor in 2026? A lot of folks think “Senator Wilson” has a nice ring to it.

The bottom line? Wilson finds himself occupying a spot most politicians would love to be in: Lots of options and the resources to pursue them.

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NANCY MACE

STOCK: RISING

Regardless of what you think of her, this much is beyond debate: Nancy Mace has the ability to make people talk about her. This affirms the timeless truth in New York political boss Timothy “Big Tim” Sullivan’s famous observation, “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me, as long as they spell my name right.”

Capitol Hill is overflowing with hundreds of egomaniacs, each and every one looking out for No. 1. So being heard and recognized above that cacophony takes a certain level of skill. Mace has honed that art to perfection. She’s even willing to let eyebrows be raised at her expense. (Exhibit A: Her controversial comments at a recent Beltway prayer breakfast hosted by U.S. senator Tim Scott).

As long as the buzz is all about her, though, Mace doesn’t seem to mind.

Being the entire tuba section in her own Nance Mace Marching Band may finally be paying off. What started as a sprinkling of political chatter has mushroomed into open speculation that Mace might make a good running mate for whoever ultimately becomes next year’s Republican presidential nominee. She has especially attracted the interest of the folks at Mar-a-Lago, where the runaway frontrunner for the nomination resides.

Looking at it from a purely political perspective, just how much “oomph” would a two-term congresswoman from a small state that’s already squarely in the GOP’s pocket bring to the Republican ticket? More importantly, just how qualified would Mace be if she had to suddenly step into the big job herself? On its surface, that would seem to be a major concern. But when you consider how drastically Kamala Harris lowered that bar, Mace probably has nothing to worry about.

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WILLIAM TIMMONS

STOCK: FALLING

Sex scandals aren’t supposed to be newsworthy anymore. But William Timmons – South Carolina’s petulant prima donna of a congressman – has made his newsworthy. And then some. We’ll never know for sure why Timmons preemptively forced out a public statement last spring in response to rumors about his affair with self-styled socialite Paula Dhierbut he did.

More than a year later, this story continues to spin out of his control …

The latest drama? Nude images sent by Dhier to multiple recipients from an email address bearing the name of one of her former employees …

Dhier is now threatening to sue over the release of these images … which could further escalate this scandal for Timmons (and further complicate his 2024 reelection efforts).

Prior to this scandal breaking, Timmons limped to an uninspiring primary win over a trio of unknown opponents in 2022. Will he face more credible opposition next spring? Thus far, it appears none of the big names associated with a potential primary challenge against Timmons are moving into position … but the more attention Timmons’ scandal draws, the more likely they are to do so.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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6 comments

Nanker Phelge August 13, 2023 at 3:34 pm

A reminder that David Weiss was appointed to the Hunter investigation by one Donald J Trump, and that last September Marsha Blackburn (Nutpublican-TN) wrote a letter to Merrick Garland BEGGING him to appoint Weiss special prosecutor.

They are going increasingly batshit crazy that after 4 years of investigating they still have bupkis on Joe Biden. The nutty comments on this appointment from the GQP sound like patients from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

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A Name August 13, 2023 at 6:57 pm

When one points out the part where all this testimony against Trump is from REPUBLICANS, it kind of blows up the weak lie that somehow Biden has weaponized the DOJ.

Also, Republicans wanted Weiss as a SP…..remember? Because the drug addled nutcases that make up Republican office holders who were begging for him sure don’t.

Hunter Biden Derangement, being Putin’s useful idiots and attacking team kids and their parents is losing combination, as Republican have found out time and time again…..not to mention killing women’s rights ;-)

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Revel In It August 14, 2023 at 8:56 am

The real conspiracy is that Trump was and still is the only person capable of mobilizing Republican votes. There is no imitation of him that works. Ron DeSantis is getting murdered in the polls. Vivek, Haley, and Tim don’t inspire anyone even a little bit. Pence is hated by both Trumpers and Never Trumpers alike.

Whether Don has kompromat on certain GOP politicians, or the party as a whole, is just icing on the cake. They can’t abandon him because it would be political suicide on its own. This is the price for what talk radio, Fox News, and the right wing blogosphere has done to their base over the last 20+ years. The only thing winning on the right at this point is corporations and grifters, and for the same reasons.

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Concerned Citizen Top fan August 13, 2023 at 9:43 pm

Interested to hear more about Ramaswamy. I see Trump leading, but some won’t choose Trump just because he’s Trump. Is Vivek a viable alternative to keep conservatives from running away?

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Griftonomics 101 August 14, 2023 at 8:58 am

Vivek is in it for the book sales.

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Joy Gammon Top fan August 14, 2023 at 9:36 am

As a moderate, I would not vote for anyone in your poll. You could say, I don’t like any of them. I also think Biden is too old, and Kamalla is an albatross around his neck in the next election. No one wants her, Nancy Mace, Nikki Haley. They are egotistical women who wish for power. Trump has SC with the Governor kissing him at the “Silver Elephant Gala,” which was disgusting. The justice system sucks, and why would we elect Alan as our next Governor. It should have been fixed in his time, as it was not. Still hoping someone of credibility will show up soon and leave the losers behind. As SC people vote for them, our education system will become Bible School. Someone said in Germany in 1933, keep them stupid so we can control the future. Just an opposite opinion, Will; who cares?

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