Palmetto Political Stock Index: 10/22/2023

War footing …

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This month’s surprise assault against the state of Israel by terrorists affiliated with Hamas – the radical Islamic military force which controls the Gaza Strip – has turned the world on its ear.

Hamas’ attack killed more than 1,400 Israelis and wounded another 4,800 – with more than 200 taken captive, according to Israeli authorities. Israel’s counterattacks have killed nearly 4,400 people in Gaza – and wounded another 13,000, according to Gaza officials.

The violence is unlikely to stop anytime soon as Israel is stepping up its air strikes in anticipation of an imminent ground invasion of Gaza.

“We need to enter under the best possible conditions and this is what we are doing now, as the next stage of war approaches,” Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman rear admiral Daniel Hagari said on Sunday.

Hagari made it clear his county was planning on prosecuting this next phase of the war “in the best conditions (for us), not according to what anyone tells us.”

As the crisis escalates, its impacts are being felt across the globe – including on the American presidential race. In fact, the war – and our nation’s involvement in it – has become the dominant issue domestically, momentarily displacing concerns about America’s moribund economy.

What impacts are already being felt?



FITSNews founding editor Will Folks and political columnist Mark Powell compile the Palmetto Political Stock Index each week to monitor situations like this. We follow the rising and falling fortunes of individuals and institutions on the global stage as well as the interplay of state and national politics in our early-voting South Carolina home, which plays host to 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.

Our index is simply an assessment of how our subjects fared over the past seven days. Positive reports don’t reflect endorsements, and negative ones aren’t indicative of vendettas. We just call ‘em like we see ‘em. Also, just because your favorite/ least favorite politician didn’t wind up on this week’s report doesn’t mean we aren’t still tracking them. Look for them in upcoming editions … and, of course, you can check prior installments to see how we’ve covered them in the past.

To view the most recent index, click here. And to get your historical fix, click here.

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




They say Nero fiddled while Rome burned. House Republicans are now accomplished virtuosos on that instrument.

As the GOP-controlled chamber’s unprecedented leadership debacle drags into its fourth week, it’s turning into The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C. The Republican caucus is showcasing its impotence via its inability to elect a successor to former speaker Kevin McCarthy.

When the big job opened up, the GOP first picked majority leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana as its nominee. But when he proved unacceptable to a handful of members on the right, Scalise had the good sense to withdraw his nomination rather than wade into that political La Brea Tar Pit.

Not so Jim Jordan of Ohio. He quickly encountered the same problem as Scalise, but in reverse. The House Freedom Caucus founder was equally unpalatable to a clump of moderates. But he stubbornly plowed ahead anyway — and was defeated in three successive ballots, losing more votes with each round. By Friday afternoon, he threw in the towel.

House Democrats are sitting back, grinning from ear to ear as they watch the farce, which they helped create by voting to oust McCarthy without a successor waiting in the wings. And they’re not lifting a finger to help end the impasse, either – though that could change if a dark horse Republican candidate were to emerge and cut a deal with them. However, a more likely outcome is Speaker pro tempore Patrick McHenry being given expanded authority to serve as acting speaker until the real thing is finally selected later this fall.

The whole sorry spectacle is worsened by the fact the federal government’s authority to spend money is set to expire (yet again) in a few weeks. There will also be upcoming votes on military aid to Israel and Ukraine.

In the meantime, Washington fiddles on.




Presidential campaigns draw up their strategies; then fate smirks and tosses in a monkey wrench nobody saw coming. Those wild cards can dramatically impact elections.

Such was the case when Hamas unleashed its Pearl Harbor-level sneak attack on Israel two weeks ago. In the blink of an eye, foreign policy is now on the 2024 campaign’s front burner – and is poised to stay there as the conflict escalates. Whatever your views on the unfolding geopolitical crisis, it remains a huge political windfall for Nikki Haley.

As a former UN ambassador, this crisis plays to her strong suit – and she wasted no time making the most of it, either, tweeting: “This is not just an attack on Israel—this was an attack on America. Finish them, (Benjamin) Netanyahu. They [Hamas] should have hell to pay for what they just did.”

Haley’s remark drew a sharp rebuke from entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, her sparring partner in the last two GOP debates. He tweeted back, “Rabidly shouting “FINISH THEM!!!” isn’t a coherent solution to a complex problem. This is the real world, not a video game.” But old habits are hard to break, and Haley is a saber-rattler par excellence. So her bombastic rhetoric roars on. 

Team Haley is also busy whooping and hollering over winning The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier’s endorsement – which was no doubt particularly painful for hometown hero (and fellow 2024 candidate) Tim Scott to read.

Tough talk always plays well with Republican voters, especially in a crisis – and Haley is seeing a slight uptick in her poll numbers as a result. But will that uptick be anywhere near enough to make her competitive against runaway frontrunner Donald Trump?




Actions, they say, speak louder than words. And when Tim Scott’s political action committee pulled the plug last week on its multi-million-dollar TV ad buys this fall, it screamed volumes.

A memo to donors from Scott’s Trust In the Mission (TIM) PAC was straight to the point.

“We aren’t going to waste our money when the electorate isn’t focused or ready for a Trump alternative,” it said.

A lot of money was at stake, too. The PAC had reserved $40 million in television advertising alone in the run-up to January’s Iowa caucuses. (Though it’s still unclear just how much of that buy has been scrapped.)

The word came on the heels of the Scott campaign announcing it raised $4.6 million in the third quarter of this year – after burning through $12 million during the same period. Then came his hometown paper’s endorsement snub. Add to that, the senator’s polling numbers have flatlined for weeks.

All of this points to one inescapable conclusion: Like every GOP candidate not named Donald Trump, Scott doesn’t need to keep a decorator on standby to redo the Oval Office.




And then there were ten. Two of the most quixotic candidates – Perry Johnson and Will Hurd – are now out of the Republican presidential race.

“Perry and Will Who?” you may be wondering. And that was precisely their problem. Neither caught on with voters, donors, the media, or pretty much else outside their immediate families. Neither made the cut to participate in the first two GOP debates, either. Now, both are ex-candidates.

Businessman Johnson, the longest of long-shot candidates, suspended his campaign Friday. When Hurd called it quits the week before, the former CIA operative-turned-former congressman-turned-presidential candidate threw his support behind Nikki Haley. In doing so, he became the first dropout to confirm the Index’s earlier speculation that she will likely become the go-to-gal as various other anti-Trumpers give way.

For those keeping score at home, the GOP field now consists of (in alphabetical order) Doug Burgum, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Larry Elder, Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchison, Mike Pence, Tim Scott, Donald Trump, and Vivek Ramaswamy.

Johnson and Hurd join Miami mayor Francis Suarez as Republicans who have dropped out of the race.

How many candidates will still be standing by the time we haul out the holly and put up the tree? Stayed tuned …




It’s been a rocky month for the 46th president. Despite all his rosy talk about how “Bidenomics” is working, the economy remains a piano on Joe Biden‘s back. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported that inflation remains white hot – with the consumer price Index rising 3.7 percent in September, more than expected.

Fresh polling showed ‘Bidenomics’ as an anchor on the incumbent, who now trials Donald Trump (albeit narrowly) in five of seven key battleground states – and tied in a sixth.

After Hamas shocked the world with its attack on Israel, Biden felt the need to insert himself directly into the crisis by traveling to the Mideast last week. Hoping to play the role of peacemaker, he instead got snubbed by top Arab leaders and returned home looking more like Neville Chamberlain than the head of a superpower.

Biden sought to salvage the situation with an Oval Office address to the nation – the second of his presidency. In a rambling, disjointed 15-minute address, he responded to the crisis by proposing to do the one thing Biden does best: spend other people’s money. It’s reported the wish list he’s preparing send to Congress would dole out another $100 billion in borrowed money, with $60 billion in military aid to Ukraine, $10 billion to Israel and an undisclosed amount of funding for stepped-up security on the Southern U.S. border.

Americans typically rally around their president in times of international crisis. But there’s no sign that’s happening this time. As of Saturday, FiveThirtyEight.com’s polling showed his approval ratings virtually unchanged – and still 13.2 percent below his disapproval rating. Ouch!

For those of you fearing the U.S. might be dragged into the Mideast fighting, it’s already happened. The first shots came Friday when the destroyer USS Carney stationed in the Red Sea intercepted drones and cruise missiles believed to be headed for Israel from Yemen – the scene of a nasty proxy war between pro-Iranian and pro-Saudi forces. The Pentagon also says rockets have been fired at U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria. 

On top of all that, many Americans are vividly recalling the disastrously hurly-burly U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan two years ago. Hardly the stuff that inspires confidence in the commander-in-chief in this current crisis.




As expected, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. jumped ship and left the Democratic Party recently. He rebranded his presidential campaign in Philadelphia by slapping an independent label on it, declaring his independence from the two-party system.

The Biden campaign is heaving a sigh of relief; it no longer has to worry about Kennedy causing heartburn for Biden during the upcoming primary season. In fact, the fretting now shifts to Republicans. Polling suggests RFK Jr’s anti-vax views (unorthodox though they are) could siphon off GOP votes.

But Democrats aren’t out of the woods yet. A threat is lurking on their left flank from veteran radical Cornel West, who will mount an independent bid. Then there’s the Green Party and Libertarian Party, both of which will field candidates nationwide. And let’s not forget the clump of moderate malcontents threatening to run on the ‘No Labels’ ticket.

If the 2024 general election turns out to be a Biden-Trump rerun, as many expect, a sizable chunk of voters of all stripes will ask, “Is this the best America can do?” That could make a non-traditional candidate appear more appealing than usual. 

Once every generation or so, an opportunity arises for a third-party candidate to shake up a presidential election. Think Ralph Nader in 2000, Ross Perot in 1992, John Anderson in 1980 and George Wallace in 1968.

Will 2024 join that list?




Play stupid games; win stupid prizes. Conservative Republicans were first confused, then bewildered, and finally furious over last month’s calamitous GOP presidential debate. Fox News and Fox Business have drawn withering fire over that encounter. Instead of discussing issues important to Republican primary voters, Univision anchor and debate panelist Ilia Calderón peppered the event with questions better suited for a progressive/ Woke lovefest, such as racism and LGBT discrimination.

Fox’s Dana Perino wrapped the dismal affair with perhaps the most idiotic question ever posed in any presidential debate – a suggestion that each candidate should write the name of the rival they felt should be (in her words) “voted off the island.”

Nikki Haley spoke for most of the field – and folks watching at home – when she snapped, “Are you serious?”

The Republican National Committee has been catching holy hell ever since. So the GOP finally pulled the plug on Fox last week, turning to NBC News to moderate the next debate. The Peacock network says the Miami, Fla. encounter will be streamed on all its platforms.

That leaves Perino and her Fox bosses as the ones voted off the island. Talk about the punishment fitting the crime!



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Bob October 22, 2023 at 11:22 am

Blaming Democrats for Republican disfunction in Congress has to be one of the dumbest lies this blog has posted in a while.

Having to carry water for maga miscreants has to be an incredibly depressing and embarrassing endeavor.

A Name October 22, 2023 at 12:27 pm

RFK Jr might peel off a few loonie maga because Trump is headed to prison, but he’s too conspiracy driven to appeal to normal American voters. Like the entire GQP now.

Funny you make no mention of the maga minions starting to plead guilty and flip on Trump in his election interference trial.

Does that mean trump is “falling” or the MAGA minions are “rising”? ;-)

Frank October 23, 2023 at 5:27 pm

Not to mention the latest quotes from Trump. Is he exhibiting dementia or is he just stupid?

First, he reasserts his love of dictators, but can’t remember what country they are from:

“I was very honored, there’s a man, Viktor Orbán. He’s the leader of Turkey.”

— Donald Trump, at a campaign rally, referring to the Hungarian leader.

Then he asserts he has not been indicted.:

“All of these indictments that you see. I was never indicted. Practically never heard the word. It wasn’t a word that registered.”

— Donald Trump, taking questions from Reporters in NH


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