Late Friday evening, police revealed the nightmare was over. The body of 40-year-old U.S. Army reservist Robert Card – who embarked on a murderous rampage at two different locations in and around Lewiston, Maine on Wednesday evening – had been found inside an unlocked cargo trailer near a recycling plant less than a mile away from where his getaway vehicle and been recovered.
The discovery of Card’s body ended a 48-hour manhunt for the perpetrator of the deadliest gun attack in Maine history – a manhunt which forced hundreds of thousands of Mainers to essentially shelter-in-place for two days. Eighteen people lost their lives in the two shootings – which took place at a bar and a bowling alley. Another thirteen people were wounded in the attack – including three who remain in critical condition as of this writing.
As is so often the case in the aftermath of such tragedies, the Maine massacre was immediately politicized.
Less than 24 hours after the attack, U.S. president Joe Biden was already challenging congressional Republicans to support an assault weapons ban, a high-capacity magazine ban, universal background checks and the extension of liability for mass shootings to gun manufacturers.
“This is the very least we owe every American who will now bear the scars – physical and mental – of this latest attack,” Biden said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the man many believe to be Democrats’ nominee-in-waiting – California governor Gavin Newsom – assailed Maine Republicans for their failure to pass gun control legislation.
“Republicans in Maine rejected a bill this year that would have required a waiting period for firearm purchases,” Newsom wrote on X. “They seriously could not fathom waiting 72 hours to buy a gun.”
Never mind that Democrats control Maine’s House, Senate and governor’s office.
What will be the long-term political fallout from this latest high-profile mass shooting? FITSNews founding editor Will Folks and political columnist Mark Powell compile the Palmetto Political Stock Index each week to monitor the impact of unfolding events like this. We follow the rising and falling fortunes of individuals and institutions on the national 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).
Remember, 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.
Where should you invest your political capital this week? To the index!
“This is not my time.”
With those words, Mike Pence suspended his presidential campaign Saturday afternoon. He finally acknowledged what the rest of America knew all along: The 48th vice president wouldn’t become the 47th president.
Pence’s campaign was a non-starter from the get-go. It came out of the gate carrying a load that would have staggered Hercules. In MAGA’s eyes, Pence was a traitor to Trump. In the eyes of establishment and mainstream Republicans, he carried the un-washable taint of Trump.
Amongst GOP voters, that made Pence a man without a country.
Mired for months with support that never escaped single digits, Pence’s decision to drop out now spared him the humiliation of not being invited to participate in the third GOP presidential debate on November 8, 2023. (Four campaigns – Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy — claim to have met the qualifying criteria. A fifth, Donald Trump, likely has as well; but since he didn’t participate in debates #1 and #2, you shouldn’t hold your breath over whether he’ll show up for #3.)
No word yet on whether Pence will endorse a rival. U.S. senator Tim Scott wasn’t taking any chances, though, with his campaign immediately issuing a statement that included the sugary sweet line, “The Republican Party is stronger today because of Mike’s leadership.” (Wink, wink.)
“I have no regrets,” Pence declared as he departed the primary field. Neither, it seems, do GOP voters.
The incumbent president suddenly has a primary challenger on his hands. His name is Dean Phillips, and although he is unlikely to bump Joe Biden from his party’s presidential nomination next year, his announcement had White House staffers popping Tums left and right at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue this week. Friday was the deadline for candidates to file for New Hampshire’s presidential primary, and Phillips made the trek to Concord to sign his paperwork in person.
Ironically, Phillips’ beef with the head of his party isn’t ideological. He has a strong record of voting on behalf of Biden measures in the House. Rather, he says Biden’s age (the president turns 81 next month) and mental state (rapidly deteriorating) render him unfit for a second term.
The 54-year-old Minnesota Democrat may be an unknown quantity, but he isn’t likely remain that way for long. His personal wealth is estimated at close to $80 million. He’s already loaned his campaign a cool $2 million to get the kitty up and running. Though that pales to the $91 million Biden’s campaign is sitting on in the bank, Phillips can dig into his incredibly deep pockets and unleash a tidal wave of TV commercials and internet ads.
The danger is very real to Biden because of his self-imposed ban on campaigning in New Hampshire. You will recall Biden demanded the DNC strip the Granite State of its century-old tradition of hosting the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, bestowing that honor on South Carolina instead (where Democratic minions can be counted on to deliver a sure victory for him).
Biden’s acolytes in New Hampshire are launching a write-in campaign there anyway because losing the first primary (be it sanctioned by the DNC or not) would be a political body blow for the president. And it has happened before – both times to incumbent Democratic presidents. Sen. Estes Kefauver’s trouncing of Harry Truman there in 1952 convinced the latter to retire; likewise, Sen. Eugene McCarthy’s near upset of Lyndon Johnson sent that president back to his Texas ranch. Could history repeat itself in 2024?
Phillips is the adoptive grandson of the late newspaper legend Pauline Phillps, better known to generations of readers as “Dear Abby.” It’s a shame grandma still isn’t giving advice; Biden might soon have need of her counsel.
Just when it seemed there was no end in sight to the farce that had played out since former GOP House speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted – the end came. After cycling through multiple better-known options, Republicans finally entrusted Louisiana’s Mike Johnson with the gavel.
The 51-year-old Republican isn’t widely known outside Capitol Hill and beyond his western Louisiana congressional district. He’s only served in Washington since 2017, making his rise to the top remarkably swift (by comparison, Nancy Pelosi toiled 20 years in the legislative vineyards before being elected speaker).
Johnson is a Bible-believing Baptist, staunchly conservative, and, according to some sources, can be tough as nails. (Given Louisiana’s rough and tumble political climate, a candidate has to be tough to survive there). He disputed the 2020 election results, which has the Left branding him as an “election denier” and an “extremist.”
South Carolina Republicans informally surveyed by this media outlet were generally open to Johnson – although in fairness, most were simply thrilled to put the protracted leadership impasse behind them.
Johnson’s honeymoon, if he gets one, will likely be short-lived. He’s heading straight into the heat of battle with yet another potential government “shutdown” looming next month. Does the new speaker have the mettle to survive one of Washington’s favorite self-created crises? Political combat reveals a lot about a person – and we’ll get a good view of Johnson’s inner workings next month. We will also learn quickly whether the new speaker has McCarthy’s “Midas touch” on the fundraising trail – something which will prove vital to the GOP’s hopes of retaining the House in 2024.
If you took a political science class in college, you may remember reading about a certain polling phenomenon. In times of national and international crisis – particularly involving America’s military – commanders-in-chief often see an uptick in their approval ratings. It’s called the “rally around the flag phenomenon.”
The problem for U.S. president Joe Biden? No one is rallying to his banner.
The Mideast is going up in flames, with the risk of increased American involvement both genuine and imminent. Yet Biden’s polling numbers have remained essentially paralyzed ever since Hamas unleashed its devastating sneak attack on Israel on October 7. Even a primetime Oval Office address to the nation didn’t move the needle. Given that his numbers remain underwater (according to FiveThirtyEight, 14.4 percent more Americans disapprove of his performance than approve), holding steady isn’t good enough.
But it gets worse.
Gallup released an especially damning poll on Thursday showing Biden’s support among Democrats down 11 percent – with his overall approval a dangerously anemic 37 percent. These stats are getting seriously close to Richard Nixon territory, people.
Try though it might, Biden’s White House simply can’t put a positive spin on, well … anything. U.S. involvement in the Mideast is starting to carry a creepy Vietnam War buildup vibe. Inflation keeps taking a bigger bite out of middle-class paychecks each month. And the administration keeps pushing an increasingly radical agenda that – while blatantly pandering to Biden’s woke/ progressive base – is straying further away from mainstream America.
Maybe Biden and whomever is feeding his teleprompter can devise a way to right the badly listing ship. But the SS Biden is taking on water fast, and it could reach all hands on deck proportions very soon.
Was it a signal that support could be coming shortly? Or just a professional courtesy one governor extended to another? Either way, it provided the dose of fresh air Ron DeSantis’ gasping campaign desperately needed.
Popular outgoing New Hampshire GOP governor Chris Sununu spent a big chunk of Tuesday escorting his Florida counterpart around his state. The pair gladhanded breakfasters at a local landmark diner, did likewise again at lunch, and held a well-attended town hall later in the day.
The two appeared to genuinely like each other (with one pundit calling it “The Chris and Ron Show”). That set tongues wagging in the political world: Could Sununu be preparing to give DeSantis his endorsement?
The latter’s campaign certainly needs all the help it can get. It’s been on a steady downward trajectory since April, with former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley now claiming the second-place spot in several states.
For his part, Sununu is being cagey. He has said for months he will be endorsing an anti-Trump candidate. But when asked directly last week if he planned to endorse a governor, he replied he was “very likely” to do so – then quickly added, “a governor, a former governor, an existing governor … it won’t be a former president, I can tell you that!”
That criterion would make Chris Christie, Haley, and DeSantis possibilities. (North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is too much of a longshot.) The scuttlebutt is Sununu will wait to see how candidates perform in the upcoming November 8, 2023 GOP debate before making his decision.
There’s a caveat to all this, though. New England Yankees can be crusty and cantankerous – the New Hampshire variety especially so. In other words, endorsements there aren’t as influential as they are in other parts of the country. Still, the Sununu speculation is just what DeSantis needs right now as he clings to any straw to keep his dimming presidential prospects from completely fading.
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme,” Mark Twain famously observed.
Well, the rhymes reverberating around the world at this moment are growing increasingly, disturbingly similar to those heard back in August of 1914. For those of you who didn’t pay attention in high school history class, that was when most of Europe blundered into the nightmare known as World War I, a nightmare from which an estimated 20 million people never awoke.
American involvement in this crisis is steadily increasing. It’s not just that American taxpayers are providing materiel support to Israel (they have done so since the Jewish state’s founding 75 years ago). It goes beyond that.
Reuters reported 900 additional American troops were being sent to the region after stepped-up attacks on U.S. installations. Last Tuesday, the Pentagon announced an additional squadron of F-16 fighter jets was likewise heading there and, more ominously, multiple U.S. units had received “prepare to deploy” orders. That was followed by word a top Marine general, and several other members of the big brass, were being sent to advise the Israeli Defense Forces.
The biggie came late last week when American warplanes bombed a weapons storage and ammo plant inside Syria, both said to be run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
And so the war drums keep beating, their tempo hastened and volume amplified by Israel’s savage retaliatory bombardment of Gaza over the weekend.
One big difference between today and 1914: Several of the principals in this drama have, or are believed to have, big shiny nuclear weapons in their arsenal. If those are used, the 20 million dead in WWI could look like child’s play in comparison.
“Go woke, go broke” is more than a snappy line. It’s turning into a financial reality for a growing number of elite colleges and universities.
Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel earlier this month stunned many Americans. They were then stunned again by the savagery immediately displayed by college student groups supporting Hamas. In many cases, that savagery flirted with the edge of — and in several instances crossed over into — blatant antisemitism and racism.
Consider prestigious Columbia University in New York City. Hundreds of students walked out of class on Wednesday, protesting Israel’s attacks on Hamas. That royally ticked off billionaire hedge fund investor and Columbia alum Leon Cooperman, who not only said the students had “shit for brains,” he also pulled the plug on his very generous giving to the school.
Consider also the University of Pennsylvania. President Liz Magill green-lit a pro-Palestinian festival on campus just days before the Hamas attack that featured the likes of notorious antisemite Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame. Many Penn big-dollar donors are now closing their checkbooks.
We could go on and on, but you get the idea. The woke/ progressive crowd, which mistakenly believes the world is obliged to fall in line and do its bidding, is getting a cold reality check. They are not only discovering that the rest of America doesn’t share their extreme views but that a fundament truth identified centuries before their birth remains in effect today: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”
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