Palmetto Political Stock Index: 9/24/2023

Surviving a sex scandal: Can one embattled South Carolina congressman learn from another?

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It’s been less than forty-eight hours since this news outlet first reported on allegations of infidelity leveled at U.S. congressman Jeff Duncan by his estranged wife, Melody Duncan.

According to a complaint obtained exclusively by this news outlet, Melody Duncan accused her estranged husband of having an affair with, among others, former National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist Liz Williams. The complaint filed by Duncan’s attorneys – Susan Rawls Strom and Patricia West Morr – also drove home the alleged hypocrisy associated with the claims against Duncan.

“As recently as August 28, 2023, (Duncan) hosted a ‘Faith and Freedom BBQ’ where he spoke to the crowd, among other things, about his marriage to (Melody) – calling her a supportive and loving wife and portraying an image of himself as a dedicated, dutiful husband,” the complaint alleged. “Upon information and belief, (he) then left the next day and went directly to the home of his paramour, Liz Williams, in the Washington, D.C. area.”

Ouch …

This bombshell filing seemed destined to land Duncan on our weekly index with a “falling” rating, but it’s far too soon to gauge the impact of the scandal on the seventh-term congressman’s political future. One thing is clear, though: Duncan should assiduously study how his neighboring U.S. congressman William Timmons chose to handle his affairand then do the opposite.

Seriously … Timmons has given Duncan a detailed road map of wrong turns to avoid. Duncan just has to avoid them.



FITSNews founding editor Will Folks and political columnist Mark Powell compile the Palmetto Political Stock Index  each week to follow the fallout from developments like Duncan’s drama. We track 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, host of the quadrennial “First in the South” Republican presidential primary (and the “First in the Nation” Democratic 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.

In this week’s editions?

Shutdown hysteria …

Nikki Haley continues climbing …

A missing Marine jet …

Remember, our index is simply an assessment of how these subjects fared over the past seven days. Positive reports don’t reflect endorsements, and negative ones aren’t vendettas. We just call ‘em like we see ‘em. Oh, and just because your favorite/ 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 reports … 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.

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




Uncle Sam will run out of money when the clock strikes midnight this coming Friday (Septe And the Democratic Party’s echo chamber (a.k.a. the woke corporate media) is already hyperventilating over it. The Washington Post called a closure “potentially catastrophic.”

The Beltway’s collective panty-wadding aside, the whole situation is a classic case of ‘much ado about nothing.’ Why? Because since 1976, there have been 22 funding gaps in the federal budget. Ten of them led to federal workers being furloughed and offices closed.

And how many of them did you, your family, and America itself survive? Um, all of them! While the mere prospect of Big Brother temporarily hanging the closed sign in federal office windows is enough to give the far left the fantods, in reality, it’s a nothing burger for the rest of us. Social Security checks will still be deposited, the mail will still be delivered and air traffic controllers will still keep the planes flying.

Meanwhile, bickering bureaucrats would get time off to enjoy this gorgeous early fall weather – secure in the knowledge that Congress always comes through with backpay for them later on.

The most beneficial thing Washington could do for Americans? Go on hiatus for a decade. Shut down the federal government, you ask? Why not! In fact, how soon can it start?




Give former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley this much: She is working her posterior off as a presidential candidate. And it appears to be paying off for her in the big three early voting states. Already well-known here in the Palmetto State, Haley is hitting Iowa and New Hampshire with all the gusto of a construction worker blasting away with a jackhammer. Late word from the Granite State is Republicans there are increasingly asking one another, “What are you hearing about Nikki Haley?”

That’s the very definition of ‘buzz,’ people. 

Haley unveiled her much-ballyhooed “Freedom Plan” to great fanfare Friday morning. While it contains many stalwarts of Republican fiscal catechism (lower taxes, less regulation, less government spending), Haley deserves kudos for her willingness to go where few in either party dare tread: She’s unafraid to address Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs that are driving forces in the nation’s $33 trillion (and growing) debt.

Haley has successfully positioned herself as the go-to candidate for the #NeverTrump crowds. She has also sidestepped some of MAGA’s ire by reminding that crowd how she once worked for Donald Trump. Until, of course, she didn’t.

But Haley’s days of perpetual contortion as it relates to the former president may be coming to an end. Little by little, she’s turning up the heat on her former boss with remarks like, “Republicans talk a big game, but they’re nearly as reckless as Democrats on spending. Donald Trump added $8 trillion to the national debt.”

Talk like that won’t win her any points at Mar-a-Lago – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t spot on. If it intensifies, one wonders how it might impact the calculus of a Trump-Haley ticket in 2024.




Ready for round two? We won’t know for sure until Monday which candidates the Republican National Committee (RNC) invited to participate in Wednesday night’s smackdown in Simi Valley, California. Six candidates appear to have met the qualifying threshold: Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Chris Christie, and Tim Scott.

A seventh candidate – North Dakota governor Doug Burgum – also says he’s qualified.

As August’s encounter in Milwaukee demonstrated, having a good night can bring swift and significant rewards. Ramaswamy’s profile shot up after viewers saw a passionate, engaged candidate. Likewise, Haley won kudos (and a similar bounce in the polls) after going after Ramaswamy on foreign policy.

But there’s no guarantee of success, either. A solid, presidential performance wasn’t enough to revive DeSantis’ fading fortunes (more on that in a moment).

And don’t forget — the star attraction will once again be missing from the show. Former president Donald Trump’s campaign says he plans to talk to striking auto workers in Michigan that night instead of appearing on stage with his GOP rivals.




It’s hard to say when a downward slide turns into a deathwatch, but the campaign of Ron DeSantis is straddling that line. If the Florida governor makes a significant gaffe or comes off lackluster in this Wednesday’s debate, we’ll know the answer.

DeSantis released a substantive energy plan last week. Yet the very same day, a new CNN New Hampshire primary poll showed him dropping to fifth place in the Granite State (behind Chris Christie – ouch!). According to the latest polls, there’s little sunny news for the Sunshine State’s governor here in South Carolina, either.

It’s no wonder then that DeSantis’ team appears to be stacking all its chips on a blowout win in Iowa. It has been persistently rumored Hawkeye State governor Kim Reynolds will endorse her fellow chief executive later this fall. The strategic thinking is a January win in Iowa’s caucuses would enable DeSantis to ride out a tepid showing in New Hampshire – thus setting the stage for a showdown here in the Palmetto State.

That seems like wishful thinking under any circumstances, but it’s especially delusional given a pair of South Carolina candidates are splintering the anti-Trump vote in this “First in the South” bellwether.

Anything can happen in politics: And that includes DeSantis making a miraculous comeback. But the grim reality amongst his inner circle in Tallahassee right now is the odds of that happening grow longer by the day.




This guy takes sucking up to his political base to a new low. Throughout the 33 months of his increasingly dismal presidency, Joe Biden (or his teleprompter?) has been consistent in one area: Catering to those who can keep him in office.

To that end, no group has received presidential favor quite like organized labor – which has been getting concierge-level service from this administration at every step of the way. Remember how Biden intervened last December to prevent a railroad strike that could have carried economically crippling consequences—and then made sure 115,000 union rail workers were showered with benefit goodies that would have put Santa Claus to shame?)

Now it’s nearly 19,000 United Auto Workers (UAW) members who are on strike. And the White House says Biden will fly to Michigan to walk the picket line with them this week.

That pander will play to the union base … but the latest data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows this base continuing to erode. Not unlike Biden’s cognition.

Perhaps that’s it? Perhaps Biden just doesn’t remember how he repeatedly promised to be a unifier who would bring our country back together? With it appearing ever more likely that Biden will face a rematch with his predecessor, he’s now revealing his 2024 strategy: Demonize Trump. Consider what he told a gathering of high-dollar donors on Broadway last Monday. “Donald Trump and his MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy. And I will always defend, protect, and fight for our democracy.”

That’s unifying? That’s bringing Americans together? There’s more unity displayed when one underworld gang wipes out another.




In every corner of South Carolina and stretching to the northernmost parts of Alaska, Americans were asking one another last week, “How the hell do you just lose a $90 million warplane???”

It is a very fair question. Because we’re not talking about misplacing your car keys or wallet here. 

The social media memes of fighter planes appearing on the sides of milk cartons were certainly funny, but the truth is what happened (and we still don’t know what happened) over the skies of South Carolina last week was (and is) no laughing matter.

The “mishap” leading to the disappearance of a U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) F-35 fighter jet remains unexplained – although the pilot was retrieved from a suburban backyard in North Charleston, S.C. and his crashed jet was located (eventually) in a field in rural Williamsburg County.

You can read all about the debacle here …

U.S. citizens should be asking their elected representatives – from members of congress all the way up to the commander-in-chief – what in the hell is going on? Not just with this plane, either, but with America’s entire military-industrial complex.

Clearly, the Biden administration hasn’t the faintest understanding of the situation. Its leaders wouldn’t know a strong military if it rose up and bit them on the rump. These are the very same people, you will remember, who allowed a Chinese spy balloon to leisurely float across the U.S. at will earlier this year, snapping intelligence photos every mile of the way.

We mentioned this was (is) no laughing matter. Let us amend that; they’re laughing till their sides hurt in Beijing. But when China eventually makes its much-anticipated move (be it against Taiwan or elsewhere), it will be stone-cold serious then. Let us pray Uncle Sam knows where all his planes are on that day; he may just need them.



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Republican Disasters September 24, 2023 at 10:28 am

Republicans water-carriers are now like

“It’s no big deal that Republican politicians in Washington are trying to destroy the economy AGAIN just to appease our dear leader trump. Don’t be such a wussy. We managed to survive every other time they screwed up!”

Welfare Will Folks already got his handouts from the taxpayers that he’ll never have to payback.

Are there any policies affecting Americans that Republicans are NOT on the wrong side of?

Don't Google That September 25, 2023 at 9:08 am

I heard Sticky Fingers was bought out by Lauren Boebert. I also heard they’re changing from Memphis style to Alabama style BBQ.

Uh, yeah…nope September 24, 2023 at 10:43 am

“ In every corner of South Carolina and stretching to the northernmost parts of Alaska, Americans were asking one another last week, “How the hell do you just lose a $90 million warplane???”

I have literally not heard a single person ask this question (and I talk with people across the country and world in my line of work).

What a strange way to attack our efforts with NATO in repelling war criminal Putin’s invasion of Ukraine? You Putin apologists are really struggling and ineffectual.

World's Most Expensive Crop Duster September 25, 2023 at 9:10 am

You can totally support Ukraine and still question the F-35 program’s seemingly endless costs and screw ups.

It’s come to this September 24, 2023 at 10:56 am

The GQP has officially become the Anti-Military Party.

Their leader, trump, openly disrespects disabled veterans, their senators are harming the functioning of our military and aiding our enemies by holding up promotions and their media toadies and congresspeople constantly attack our military and give aid to Russia by attacking our efforts with NATO.

Besides religious nuts, white-nationalists and libertarian minded ultra-wealthy, who do Republicans expect to get votes from? They’ve lost the military vote.

Ron September 24, 2023 at 3:47 pm

Republicans are a disgrace.

Trump calls for a retiring General to get the ‘death penalty’, while the openly racist, Rep. Gosar says he should be ‘hung’.

Why? Because he spoke the truth about his time with trump.

That’s today’s GQP. Openly hostile and actively working against our military.

Bob September 24, 2023 at 12:06 pm

The Biden/Democrat strategy for 2024?

Stand back while the Republicans keep kicking themselves in the nuts…over and over and over and over again.

The halfway sane Republicans have left the Party to a bunch of deeply dumb, angry and incompetent fools/crooks.

Everything Republicans stand for is highly unpopular with a vast majority of voters. Especially younger, new voters. Prepare for another Blue Tsunami!

Orange is the New Orange September 25, 2023 at 9:14 am

If Trump wins the nominations he’ll just ghost Biden at the debates like he has his fellow Rethuglicans. With any luck maybe he can blame it on the jail time.

Nanker Phelge September 24, 2023 at 2:36 pm

The only reason Haley is rising is because DullSantis is tanking, bigly.

If Vivache gives another debate performance similar to the last, viewers will be wanting to shoot their tvs.

If your hate boner for Biden lasts 33 months, please see a doctor immediately.

Appius Top fan September 25, 2023 at 9:08 am

Somebody has been reading DFW.

Terrible labor take.

Lorraine Murphy Top fan September 25, 2023 at 9:27 am

Your cavalier attitude towards government shut down is funny satire and somewhat true but you didn’t mention the bigger picture. The really big picture is the world is watching and they lose confidence in America. The US credit rating was down graded recently as a result of constant gridlock in our government. I submit that might be a more newsworthy story for everyone.


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