We all knew this week’s edition of the Palmetto Political Stock Index was going to be a big one. After last week’s GOP presidential debate in Milwaukee – and another indictment of former U.S. president Donald Trump – there was plenty of potentially paradigm-shifting material to parse.
Did any paradigms actually shift, though? Or as Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant once crooned, did the song remain the same?
That’s what this index endeavors to assess … the immediate impact of seismic occurrences as well as longer-term tectonic shifts in the political landscape.
FITSNews founding editor Will Folks and political columnist Mark Powell compile this index 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 South Carolina home, which hosts the quadrennial “First in the South” presidential primary. 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.
On tap this week?
The mug shot heard round the world …
Fallout from the first GOP debate …
Congressional sex scandal news …
Ceiling fans under attack … (that’s right).
As noted previously, our index is simply an assessment of how subjects discussed herein fared over the past week. Positive reports don’t reflect endorsements, and negative ones shouldn’t be construed as vendettas. We just call ‘em like we see ‘em.
Also, just because your favorite (or least favorite) politician didn’t wind up on this week’s index – that doesn’t mean we aren’t still tracking them. Look for them in future indices … and, of course, you can check prior installments to see how we’ve covered them in the past. To view last week’s index, click here. And to get your historical fix, click here.
Last week saw such frenzied movement on the big board that our political stock traders needed a mid-week update to keep track of it all – as well as the weekend to catch their breath. But buckle up; we’re plunging ahead starting now …
To the index!
Democrats got the image they’d been waiting for on Thursday evening when the Fulton County sheriff’s office in Atlanta published the first-ever mugshot of a former president of the United States. In his booking photo on election interference charges in Georgia, Trump glared defiantly into the camera – sheer contempt pouring from his eyes (makes you wonder how it must have felt being the photographer looking back at him through the camera lens).
Trump certainly liked his mugshot, blasting it out on his Truth Social platform and also posting it on Elon Musk’s “X” (f.k.a. Twitter) – his first tweet in more than two-and-a-half years.
What does Trump’s latest indictment (and historic “mean mug”) ultimately mean for him?
Based on polling conducted in the aftermath of the photo’s release, little has changed. Trump’s MAGA base is madder than ever, and his numbers amongst GOP voters are still pushing the edge of the stratosphere.
Also, there was zero backlash from his decision to skip Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate in Milwaukee in favor of a taped interview with Tucker Carlson. That reminds us, a nasty spat is raging right now over the exact number of viewers who watched the ex-Fox host’s interview with Trump versus the Fox debate, but it seems pretty clear the former blew the latter out of the water.
What happens next? Facing a total of 91 counts in four separate criminal cases in three states and the District of Columbia, Trump heads into the pivotal post-Labor Day stretch of campaigning with a thick cloud of uncertainty hanging above him – but his party’s base solidly behind him.
That keeps him holding (albeit at a high level) for now …
Who else but Joe Biden travels 4,781 miles from Washington, D.C. to meet with disaster survivors in Lahaina, Hawaii, only to compare the Maui wildfires (the country’s deadliest blaze in more than a century) to a small fire in his home kitchen 19 years ago?
“I don’t want to compare difficulties, but we have a little sense, Jill and I, of what it was like to lose a home,” Biden said. “Years ago, now 15 years … lightning struck at home on a little lake outside the home. Not a lake. A big pond. It hit the wire and came up underneath our home, into the … air condition ducts.”
“To make a long story short, I almost lost my wife, my ’67 Corvette and my cat,” Biden said.
The Bidens didn’t lose their home, though. According to The Associated Press, the 2004 incident was a “small fire” – one firefighters were able to keep from “spreading beyond the kitchen.”
“The fire was under control in twenty minutes,” the responding fire chief noted.
With 115 bodies in the morgue and 338 others unaccounted for in Hawaii – what was Biden thinking making such a comparison? Was it another sign of mental decline or an especially callous case of tone-deafness?
Either way the gaffe sent Biden’s stock plummeting like a bag of wet cement this week.
The former South Carolina governor had a very good night on the debate stage in Milwaukee. The trouble is, it wasn’t quite as good as Nikki Haley‘s campaign claims it was. Sure, she had some standout moments – particularly when she went after rival Vivek Ramaswamy with teeth bared over their foreign policy differences.
“You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows,” Haley barked, delivering a shot that was easily a contender for best line of the night.
GOP establishment types have been gushing over Haley’s performance. And of course the neoconservatives loved her saber-rattling. Yet the actual conservative factions of the party have also been talking, claiming Have-It-Both-Ways Haley’s “national consensus” statement on the issue of abortion was a wink at moderates. To them, it was Haley’s way of saying, “don’t pay attention to all the tough conservative talk coming out of the right side of my mouth; I’m really one of you.”
Haley’s fundraising team has been wearing out the “send” button on their fundraising emails as they solicit donations based on her debate reviews – most notably a glowing “atta girl” from The Wall Street Journal.
But did all the insider buzz move the needle where it matters? Haley’s poll numbers in the past four days haven’t been rosy. There’s been no big spike for her – and a Washington Post/ FIveThirtyEight/ Ipsos poll of GOP voters who tuned into to the debate had her finishing a distant third (behind Ramaswamy and Florida governor Ron DeSantis).
Still, the debate buzz floating around the Beltway has been good for Haley, and she is raising big bucks off of that buzz – which has her stock climbing this week.
Just when it seemed momentum was starting to build for Tim Scott’s presidential campaign, it was stopped dead in its tracks.
“A less than stellar performance” was one of the more charitable descriptions of what happened Wednesday night for South Carolina’s junior senator. Another observer’s assessment was far more blunt: “Tim Scott was a dud.”
The timing couldn’t have been worse for Scott. In late July and early August, it seemed things were starting to break his way. After shaky initial forays into early-voting Iowa and New Hampshire, return trips suggested he had found his sea legs as a campaigner and was picking up wind in his sails. Big money GOP donors had begun gravitating to him, positioning Scott for a potential breakthrough.
It didn’t happen, though. Scott stalled in the weeks leading up to the debate, then he went to Milwaukee and underwhelmed on the debate stage. It’s not that he stumbled, committed any serious gaffe or was savaged by any of his opponents. He was just – like a can of Coke left open overnight on the kitchen counter. Scott had all the excitement of an ice cream peddler selling only vanilla, with GOP voters hungrily eyeing the Baskin-Robbins’ 31 flavors available all around him.
Boding worse for Scott, there are ongoing reports of serious problems with his ground game. A reporter shared with us that despite calls to four different Scott staffers stationed in New Hampshire late Friday morning, none could tell them what time an event there was scheduled to begin that afternoon. Not good! Especially when Scott and his political action committee are spending so handsomely (and secretly) to see such logistics handled.
Scott did have a strong closing statement in Wednesday’s debate – reminding voters of his potential. But by that point, was anyone still paying attention?
Whether you loved what he said – or thought he was certifiably insane – it was impossible to ignore the 38-year-old Ohio entrepreneur in last week’s debate. Vivek Ramaswamy rattled off soundbites with the rapidity of a machine gun, stopping only when his time was up. And while he clearly got under the skin of several of his rivals (Haley, in particular, treated him like a wet dog at a wedding), their counterattacks didn’t seem to phase him in the least.
The self-described anti-woke crusader showed areas for improvement (while solid on social issues, he was wobbly in the foreign policy arena – and Haley made him pay for it). But for someone undergoing his political debate baptism by fire, he acquitted himself remarkably well.
There’s also this: Ramaswamy smiled the entire time – grinning like a kid who just found out he was getting a pony for his birthday. Seriously, his cheek muscles must have been beyond sore by the time he got to his hotel room that night. Still, happiness and positivity are contagious – and they also show up in post-debate photos. Some of Ramaswany’s opponents would do well to remember that (ahem, Mike Pence).
Here’s the important takeaway: People are taking notice and talking about Ramawsamy – and unlike Haley, he has seen some movement in the polls following his performance. That is the coin of the realm at this stage of a primary campaign, and it is more than enough to secure Ramaswamy a rising rating this week.
For most of the 2024 GOP presidential race, Ron DeSantis has been all alone in second place behind Trump. And even though his positioning has eroded significantly in recent months, he took the stage in Milwaukee still retaining a lead over his Republican rivals.
Given this dynamic, it was expected the GOP gathering at Fiserv Forum might devolve into a pile-on targeting the Florida governor. Such coordinated broadsides from DeSantis’ fellow would-be presidents never materialized, though. Instead, the flak was directed mostly Ramaswamy’s way – an on-stage target DeSantis seemed all too eager to share.
As others gleefully tried to “obliterate Vivek,” there was no need for DeSantis to “take a sledgehammer” to his rival, as a leaked debate prep memo urged him to do. Consequently, DeSantis was able to remain above the fray, which is always a good place to be when arrows are flying.
Not surprisingly, a sizable number of post-debate surveys – including the aforementioned Washington Post/ FiveThirtyEight/ Ipsos poll – found GOP voters viewed him as the winner in Milwaukee (with Ramaswamy nipping at his heels).
The problem for DeSantis? His positive performance did nothing (not yet, anyway) to close the chasm that exists between him and Trump. For that reason alone, his stock is holding this week.
South Carolina congressman William Timmons has seen his stock tumble on this index in recent weeks – and this week is no exception.
While Timmons’ sex scandal hasn’t done him irreparable political harm, these messages – a mix of threats against his lover’s estranged husband and what some are calling potential witness tampering – could create real problems for him down the road.
The only good news for Timmons this week? The family court drama which has brought out all of his bad behavior appears to be drawing to a close …
SOUTH CAROLINA PRO-LIFERS
Any way you look at it, last week’s South Carolina supreme court decision upholding the state’s 2023 six-week abortion ban was a decisive victory for the pro-life camp. The win was all the sweeter after the court struck down a similar measure in a 3-2 opinion back in January.
The new ruling will doubtless rile up pro-choice supporters, who are still stinging from last year’s U.S. supreme court decision striking down Roe v. Wade. But it could have a similar motivating impact on pro-lifers, who now feel as though “Big Mo” (political momentum) is on their side.
Could a round of even tougher abortion restrictions lie on the horizon? We’ve been speaking to several GOP leaders who believe so – and other Republicans who wish the issue would just go away.
Look for a report on the status of this ongoing debate later this week …
As part of its ongoing green energy folderol, Joe Biden‘s energy department is now coming after home ceiling fans.
That’s right: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is pushing a rule which would require new ceiling fans to be much more “energy efficient.” Sounds harmless enough, right? Until you dig a little deeper into the story. The DOE admits consumers would only save $39 over the fan’s entire lifespan. In other words, if you get a unit that lasts twenty years (and good luck with that!) it would save you an estimated $0.16 cents a month on your power bill.
But the costs to make those new “smart fans?” Those would skyrocket. Manufacturers project they would spend an additional $86 million more yearly to produce them. And of course every penny of that cost would be passed on to you – the consumer – pushing the final sticker price through the roof. Many lower-income folks – already hit hard by rising electricity rates – could be forced to forgo ceiling fans altogether.
Care to try sweating through a South Carolina summer with no relief from the heat?
Perhaps RFK Jr. could remind “First in the Nation” Democratic voters in the Palmetto State about that on his next southern swing.
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