The Palmetto Political Stock Index roared back into action this weekend after a brief Thanksgiving respite which saw both of our authors momentarily felled by self-induced superfluities of tryptophan.
The onset of the holiday season means the calendar is becoming incredibly compressed for those candidates on the outside looking in on the major party nominating process (i.e. anyone not named Donald Trump or Joe Biden). Several early state tests loom large, and big bets are being laid down as to which contenders will pick up precious momentum in these pivotal first partisan primaries.
What a difference a year makes, too. Last year, we noted Trump was “on the defensive about his future viability” after being blamed for a disastrous midterm election for Republicans. By contrast, DeSantis bucked the “red ripple” of 2022 – turning in a monumental landslide reelection in Florida. National and early-voting polls showed the Florida governor pulling within ten percentage points of the incumbent as 2022 turned to 2023.
Two things happened since then, though. First, the far left’s ‘Indictmentpalooza‘ against Trump rallied broad swaths of the GOP base to the former president’s banner. Next, DeSantis saw his support steadily drop off as he was pounded by Trump, Democrats, the media and his fellow second-tier GOP rivals – a multi-directional assault that has
Folks and political columnist Mark Powell compile this index weekly to chart 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 hosts the quadrennial “First in the South” Republican presidential primary (and the “First in the Nation” Democratic primary).
A key disclaimer: Our index is merely an assessment of how our subjects fared over the past seven days. Also, positive reports don’t reflect endorsements, and negative ones aren’t indicative of vendettas. Not necessarily, anyway. We just call ‘em like we see ‘em. Also, just because your favorite/ least favorite politician isn’t on this week’s report that 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!
Some weeks, it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. Last week was one of them for Joe Biden.
On Tuesday, he went to Georgia for former first lady Rosalynn Carter’s memorial service, never a pleasant duty for anyone, president or not. That same afternoon back in Washington, wind gusts of nearly 50 miles an hour blew down the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse and knocked off 20 ornaments. The National Park Service had to hustle to get everything back in place in time for Thursday evening’s 101st lighting ceremony.
Biden capped off his busy day by bashing his likely opponent at a fundraiser in Colorado with, “Donald Trump and extreme MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy.” This from the same guy who said during a call to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade telecast just five days earlier, “We can have different political views, but… we have to bring the nation together and treat each other with a little bit of decency.”
Then there’s the Israel-Hamas War, which is rapidly turning into political quicksand for Biden. After being extended twice, the truce that had (more or less) held since November 24 wrapped up on Friday. Israel wasted no time renewing its airstrikes on targets inside Gaza.
While that was going on, a group of Muslim leaders from swing states met in Detroit to launch #AbandonBiden. Activists from Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are now coordinating efforts to deny Biden reelection.
The move is another indication that the divide between traditional Jewish liberals and moderates who support Israel and progressive and Muslim Democrats supporting Palestine is escalating (as we predicted on a previous index) into a political San Andreas Fault, threatening to shake the party to its core. And Biden seems increasingly unable to avoid the coming Big One.
Then, over the weekend, House speaker Mike Johnson said he believes the GOP has the votes to move ahead with an impeachment inquiry into Biden.
Turns out that toppled Christmas Tree was the least of Biden’s worries.
Rising? Dare we say “soaring.” Or as Nikki Haley is fond of saying, “surging.” The good times continue to roll for the former South Carolina governor. She’s still basking in the glow of last week’s endorsement by the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity. And make no mistake, it is a big deal, as Haley reminds almost every audience she talks to these days. But is it also a case of too little, too late?
To a certain extent, it’s starting to feel like 2016 all over again as the GOP Establishment and Never Trumpers frantically try to find a candidate who can prevent a Trump 2.0 nomination. The former president’s lead remains so commanding, AFP’s blessing may only amount to a silver medal for second place.
AFP helped boost the Tea Party movement back in 2010 – you know, when Haley claimed to be a Tea Partier – but its support of her this go-round is clearly a nod to middle-of-the-road Republicans.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Haley, though, as she also contended with a couple of headaches last week.
During Thursday night’s televised debate between DeSantis and Gavin Newsom, the progressive California governor asked, “When are you going to drop out and give Nikki Haley a shot to win?” Conservatives instantly took note. “If I were her, would I really want Gavin Newsom saying nice things about me?” one elected South Carolina official mused.
A bigger fire was burning in Iowa, where that state’s caucuses will kick off the nominating process on January 15.
Taking with a leading evangelical leader there recently, she was asked if she would sign a six-week abortion ban. Haley responded, “Yes.”
Her opponents pounced.
Consider former New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s reaction: “I thought to myself, ‘Well, hell, man, I have seen her in New Hampshire any number of times where she has said she doesn’t want to use this issue to divide America anymore. But when she’s in a place that’s much more conservative than here, with a guy that’s much more conservative, she tells the guy what he wants to hear.”
Haley’s campaign claims she was answering a question about a state law she would have signed as governor, not a federal abortion law. Pro-Life activists are skeptical.
She can surely use all the help AFP can give to extricate herself from that mess.
Fresh on the heels of his aforementioned one-on-one debate, Florida’s governor brought the fight for the GOP nomination to his immediate rival’s home base. Ron DeSantis spent Friday hopscotching across South Carolina from the Upstate to the Lowcountry.
There was a town hall in Greer, a meet and greet at a pizza joint in Clinton, another town hall in Prosperity, and then the Citadel Republican Society Dinner in Charleston.
At each stop, DeSantis stuck with the same “I can give you Trumpism without the baggage of Trump” message he’s delivered all year. Supporters still love it. But their numbers aren’t growing; in fact, they keep slowly but steadily shrinking. Though he clings to a precarious second-place position, DeSantis’ downward slide and Haley’s rise are on a trajectory to intersect sooner than later.
On top of that, a messy sex scandal involving Florida’s GOP’s chairman and a leader in the Moms for Liberty movement seems to growing from bad to worse. Though DeSantis isn’t personally involved, any bad news involving prominent supporters in the Sunshine State is bound to spatter on him.
Finally, there’s the ticking clock factor. Last week’s DeSantis-Newsome encounter didn’t provide the poll bounce his campaign desperately needed. Another opportunity comes on Tuesday night when the fourth GOP presidential debate—the final one before voting commences next month—is held in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
But if debates 1, 2, and 3 didn’t do it for DeSantis, is there any reason to expect #4 will be the charm?
This index hasn’t talked much about the various doings in Donald Trump’s myriad legal cases. Let’s face it: the former president is fighting on so many fronts in so many different courtrooms an entire website could be devoted to keeping up with it all. But two developments from last week bear discussion.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Friday that Trump is not immune from civil lawsuits relating to the events on Jan. 6, 2021. He had argued he was shielded from them by presidential immunity. But the three-judge panel disagreed. When a chief executive “acts outside the functions of his office, he does not continue to enjoy immunity from damages liability just because he happens to be the President,” Sri Srinivasan, the court’s chief judge, wrote.
The decision opens the floodgates to a potential wave of litigation from law enforcement officers, members of Congress, and others claiming Trump’s actions on that day endangered them.
On Thursday, a state appeals court in New York reinstated a gag order in his civil fraud case there. Twice in October, Trump blasted the trial judge’s law clerk on social media as “Schumer’s girlfriend,” claiming the Senate majority leader was secretly orchestrating the case against him. He was slapped with fines totaling $15,000. That’s bringing sand to the beach for a guy who tools around the country in his private jetliner. Still, any restriction on his speech is chafing to a candidate famous for shooting from the lip.
What will the consequence of all this be? Politically, it hasn’t made the slightest dent in Trump’s poll numbers. And if the barrage of legal challenges dumped on him hasn’t bumped him from the top of the GOP pack by now, these latest legal twists probably won’t impact the campaign, either.
The only real results will likely be Trump’s harried legal team will be working longer hours — and their wallets will grow fatter, too.
The crazies driving the Woke train are back. It’s bad enough they’ve turned American history into their own political playground, where revered figures are savaged with revisionist history with the ferocity of angry children whaling away at a piñata. These self-anointed social justice warriors outdid themselves this week, though, getting grossly offended by a bunch of bird names.
Woke birdbrains have nested inside the American Ornithological Society’s ranks. It’s responsible for standardizing bird names in North and South America, and it has arbitrarily decided dozens of old names must go. “Exclusionary naming conventions developed in the 1800s, clouded by racism and misogyny, don’t work for us today, and the time has come for us to transform this process and redirect the focus to the birds,” the group recently announced.
Translation: “Here’s a new opportunity to practice cancel culture.”
For example, consider the Audubon’s shearwater, a seabird in the southeastern United States. It was named for legendary naturalist John James Audubon. But because he was a slave owner, the holier-than-thou officials who sit in judgment over our ancestors have decided his name must go the way of the Dodo.
Yet another brilliant idea from the progressive Left that’s for the birds …
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