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Palmetto Political Stock Index: 1/14/2024

Field frozen in Iowa … will a winter storm shake up the trajectory of the 2024 election?

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It’s showtime, fellow Americans. For the first time in the 2024 election cycle, polling averages and pundit predictions are about to be replaced by good old fashioned voter turnout – well, assuming Iowans are able to dig out from under a massive blizzard that rocked the state over the weekend.

The 2024 Iowa GOP caucus is finally here – although the field was literally frozen in place late Friday as a winter storm deposited up to fifteen inches of snow in certain parts of the Hawkeye State. Hundreds of roads were rendered impassable, with the Iowa department of transportation indicating “it could take up to a week to get the mess cleaned up.”

In the aftermath of the storm, Iowa has been gripped by a brutal blast of Arctic air that has sent temperatures plummeting to near-record lows. Sharp winds out of the northwest have driven wind chills as low as 45 degrees below zero. Prior to the blizzard, Iowa Republicans were expecting to break the record of 186,932 caucus-goers set on February 1, 2016. Now, GOP campaigns are scrambling to assess how dramatically reduced turnout estimates – some are saying fewer than 100,000 caucus-goers could participate – are going to impact their candidates.

Even former U.S. president Donald Trump – who leads the field in Iowa by more than thirty percentage points – has expressed some concern about the impact of the inclement weather.

“I worry about that but at the same time, I’m watching even the newscast today, they’re saying the Trump voter has so much more spirit, dedication,” the former president said on Saturday. “They say they’ll walk over glass, that the Trump voter’s coming to vote.



Is he right? We will find out Monday night …

More importantly, we’ll find out how Iowa’s deep freeze impacts the future trajectory of the race as it heads to New Hampshire and then on to South Carolina, the state that picks presidents (on both the GOP and Democratic side).

For the past ten months, our founding editor Will Folks and political columnist Mark Powell have been tracking trajectories in this race via our Palmetto Political Stock Index. As previously noted, each index is an assessment of how our subjects fared over the previous seven days. To be clear: Positive reports don’t reflect endorsements, and negative ones aren’t indicative of vendettas. We just call ‘em like we see ‘em.

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

Five televised debates, hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign and “issues” expenditures, thousands of mailings, hundreds of television advertisements and innumerable town hall meetings have all come down to this moment. The Iowa Republican presidential caucuses are here. This is as real as it gets, people. So let’s take the body politic’s temperature as we head into this do-or-die week …




Iowa is getting a big chill right at its big moment. The aforementioned Artic blast with deadly sub-zero temperatures has the Hawkeye State in its grip — just as voters there are about to set the primary voting season in motion.

Even in the best of times, Iowa winters aren’t for the faint of heart. But right now, that wind is carrying temperatures more familiar to Eskimos than to folks in Ames, Cedar Rapids or Sioux City. As of press time, the forecast for Caucus Day in Des Moines called for a daytime high of -2. That’s not the windchill, mind you; that’s the high temperature. It will be even colder when caucus-goers gather – or attempt to gather – in school gyms, living rooms and fire stations across the state at 7:00 p.m. CST that night.

Remember, caucuses are not like primary elections. There is no absentee voting. No curbside ballots. You have to be a registered Republican – or register as a Republican onsite – to participate. And you have to be there in person to vote. Not only that, a caucus isn’t an “in and out” proposition. You have to sit through debate and wait potentially an hour or longer to cast your vote.

The weather is especially important because caucus participants — especially on the Republican side — tend to be older than general election voters in November. So, just how many 60-plus-year-olds will be putting on parkas and thermally insulated gloves to brave the frozen night air? And which candidate will be hurt the most by a drop in that particular age demographic?

Every election, from president down to the proverbial dogcatcher, hinges on turnout. That’s especially true for caucuses, and it’s doubly true for this particular one on Monday night. Mainstream media has been slamming the Iowa caucus, with The Associated Press saying the cold snap “will make an already unrepresentative process even less representative.”

That may be true, but for now all eyes are on Iowa and its impact on the field moving forward …




Nikki Haley‘s much-ballyhooed “surge” seems to have hit a brick wall. Everywhere the former governor turned last week, she was met by less-than-ideal news.

The week began well enough for her when a CNN/ University of New Hampshire poll of Granite State primary voters showed Haley trailing Trump by just seven percentage points. Haley’s campaign blared that news far and wide like Gabriel blowing his trumpet. Unfortunately for her, a string of other polls followed later in the week, showing the CNN/UNH survey to be an outlier.

Trump’s lead in New Hampshire remains as solid as ever …

Wednesday’s withdrawal of establishment GOP rival Chris Christie from the race also initially appeared to be good news for Haley. Conventional wisdom held most Christie voters would meander their way into Haley’s fold – especially in New Hampshire where they could push her into contention. And that might have happened, too, had a “hot mic” moment not given them pause to rethink it.

Just minutes before dropping out, Christie was overheard telling a New Hampshire supporter “(Haley)’s gonna get smoked – and you and I both know it – she’s not up to this.”

Maybe that was the reason for her less-than-sparkling debate performance a few hours later with Florida governor Ron DeSantis, where she did laps in a pool of negativity with her delivery stuck on the words “lie,” “liar,” “lies,” and “lying.”

Capping off her dismal week was Friday’s word that Kentucky Republican Rand Paul was launching a “Never Nikki” website.

“Based on her record and campaign, I don’t see how any thoughtful or informed libertarian or conservative could vote for Nikki Haley,” Paul posted on X.

While the timing addresses the current primary campaign, its actual message runs much deeper. Paul is telegraphing to Trump that he is among the growing number of leading Republicans who find Haley unacceptable as a potential running mate.

The winter grip that could very well impact turnout for Monday night’s Iowa caucuses would likely cause Haley minimal harm. She never quite meshed with that state’s strongly evangelical conservative base – although her numbers did tick upward during the last three months of the race.

“This is truly cold,” Haley told her backers as the blizzard raged. “But we’re gonna keep on going anywhere and everywhere. We’re gonna go all the way until the last hour.”

All Haley needs is a respectable showing in Iowa before packing up her tent and heading off to New Hampshire – a state which has become her home away from home. But as the New Hampshire Institute of Politics’ Neil Levesque diplomatically put it late last week, “Haley’s momentum appears to have slowed” there.




It’s Zero Hour for the Florida governor. His line in the sand is actually now drawn in the snow that covers broad swaths of Iowa right now. And Donald Trump is poised to stampede all over it.

DeSantis just can’t catch a break. His endorsement from Iowa governor Kim Reynolds produced a “meh” reaction among rank-and-file Republicans. And while the backing of evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats helped some, it was not enough to even pull him close to Trump.

Wednesday’s one-two punch didn’t put any wind in his sails, either. Christie’s unexpected exit from the race meant a potential influx of new support for his top rival, Haley. Then, his debate performance in Des Moines that night, while credible, didn’t set hearts racing. Now it seems even Ma Nature is turning her back on him, sending what may be the season’s worst blast of winter weather Iowa’s way — at the very moment he needed Hawkeye State voters to keep him in contention.

For weeks, there have been persistent whispers in GOP circles that should DeSantis get shellacked Monday night, he’ll announce he’s bowing out of the race. If that comes to pass, DeSantis can at least take comfort in this: It’ll be 57 degrees in Tallahassee that day.

For now, DeSantis is planning to skip New Hampshire’s “First in the Nation” primary and take the fight directly to Haley in “First in the South” Carolina after all the votes have been counted in Iowa.

Will he still have a candidacy by the time the Palmetto State’s February 24 primary rolls around? Monday night’s returns could tell the tale …




Trump heads into this season of actual voting having conducted the lengthy lead-up phase entirely on his own terms. He blew off all five Republican presidential debates. He eschewed traditional retail campaigning in favor of rock concert-inspired rallies. He only gave interviews to favored media outlets (and very few at that).

The result? He remains the top dog in a once-crowded pack – the presumptive nominee (or at the very least still the runaway frontrunner).

True, Trump’s had to contend with issues his opponents didn’t – like a string of criminal cases around the country totaling 91 counts. He’s faced liberal judges in Colorado and a progressive secretary of state in Maine who’ve tried to keep him off the ballot in those states (the U.S. supreme court will have the final say on all of that, though).

Yet the more slings and arrows that come Trump’s way, the higher his standing among Republican voters rises. At last count, FiveThirtyEight’s national polling average showed him with a commanding 60.4 percent support heading into this crucial phase of the race – with RealClearPolling putting him even higher, at 60.9 percent.

It was Trump’s race from the start, with his position cemented at almost unassailable levels thanks to the spate of ham-fisted criminal charges foisted on him by Democratic-inspired prosecutors.

What does the future hold for Trump’s candidacy? Searching history for a parallel is useless. As we noted at the start, conventional political wisdom says Trump shouldn’t be where he is right now for having broken all the rules. As far as determining where things go from here, conventional political wisdom should probably put a sock in it, too. Because Trump is going to keep on doing whatever he wants to do.

Will that work? We’ll find out on November 5.




It would just be too easy to make a joke about the Fat Lady having finally sung for Chris Christie. So we won’t. (Though I suppose we just did.) Puns aside, we may not have heard the last from the rotund former New Jersey governor this election cycle.

Christie was barely out of the contest when speculation began swirling that he would make an ideal candidate for the No Labels Party. Frequent readers of our index will recall we’ve mentioned this group of unhappy moderate campers several times previously.

While Joe Biden and Donald Trump appear to have control of their respective parties firmly in hand, a sizable number of people of all political stripes are looking at the two presidents and asking, “THIS is the best America can do?”

The problem? No Labels hasn’t emerged as an alternative to Trump or Biden. Instead, it’s emerged as an utterly devoid-of-substance amalgamation of the two major parties. The group held a “convention” (if you can call it that) in New Hampshire last year. It was decided that if come April 2024 it appeared Biden and Trump would again be the Democratic and Republican nominees, it would field a unity ticket of a Democratic and Republican running together against the two standard-bearers.

What’s happened instead? On the eve of the Iowa caucus, the group’s top “Republican” – former Maryland governor Larry Hogan – announced he had quit the group and endorsed Nikki Haley.

Previous GOP presidential loser Mitt Romney – who never met a squish he didn’t like – has let it be known he’s available for a unity ticket. Then there’s outgoing West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who’s quite comfortable voting with Republicans and who attended last year’s No Label’s confab. Manchin hasn’t closed the door on the possibility of running, and has been a fixture in Manchester, New Hampshire in recent weeks.

Then there’s Christie. His team spent the second half of last week making non-denial denials about the possibility of him becoming a No Labeler.

Romney, Manchin, Christie … if the little party pulls its ticket from that pile of political retreads, look for most Americans to say “No Way” to No Labels.




Joe Biden was probably glad when last week drew to a close. Because it wasn’t a good one for the incumbent.

For starters, there was the one-ring circus known as Hunter Biden. The first son breezed — unannounced — into a House oversight committee hearing Wednesday morning right as members were putting finishing details on a bill holding him in contempt of Congress. After making a mess of those proceedings, he waltzed out of the room.

The next day, Biden the Younger pleaded not guilty to nine federal tax charges. Then, Friday, he caved and announced he would be willing to sit for a closed-door House deposition and answer questions about his shady business dealings after all.

While all that was going on, the drone and missile attacks from Houthi rebels based in Yemen on Western ships operating near the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden came to a head Thursday evening. The U.S. and Britain conducted strong retaliatory strikes. A second U.S.-only strike followed Friday. To put it in street slang, it was a bitch slap aimed at reminding the Houthis who they’re messing with. But the Houthis are backed by Iran, which is also backing Hamas in its war with Israel that still rages on not far away. Meaning there’s always the risk of being dragged into that conflict.

Next, word came that John Kerry is exiting the Biden White House as its finger-wagger-in-chief on climate change. Considering his unsuccessful presidential bid in 2004, having Kerry offer campaign tips is a lot like John F. Kennedy Jr. giving flying lessons.

But the biggest hit of all came Thursday when the Labor Department said inflation rose more than expected in December. That was an unwelcome turd in the punch bowl for the Biden campaign, which had been crowing for weeks that the slowdown in price increases meant it had brought inflation under control.

Finally, there was a scary scene outside the White House Saturday night when thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gave the Secret Service a major scare. They hurled dozens of bloody dolls in protest, threw other projectiles, and shook a security fence so severely that D.C. police in riot gear were called in. The situation was so tense, White House staffers were temporality “relocated” for their safety.

Biden was weekending at Camp David when the violence broke out …

And thus things stood as the first phase of the 2024 presidential campaign came to a close … and as we wait for the first of tens of millions of ballots to be counted over the next ten months.



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Nanker Phelge January 14, 2024 at 10:00 pm

Past Iowa winners include Rafael Cruz, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee. I don’t know why anyone even pays attention to it.

BOP January 15, 2024 at 1:38 pm

You’ll get to add a mushed brained fatso who reeks of butt and make up to that list here soon!

George Johnson Top fan January 15, 2024 at 7:39 am

Nikki’s “stock” must be rising if the worthless POS Rand Paul came out against her.

Ralph Hightower Top fan January 15, 2024 at 11:26 am

Bless her heart. Trikki Nikki won’t be getting my vote in November.

Losers gonna lose January 15, 2024 at 12:31 pm

Watching Hunter Biden make the kooky Republicans look like total clowns was unexpected. Although, at this point, it should be expected that Republicans will shoot themselves in the foot every time.

How is its, Gym Jordan, who is in contempt of Congress for ignoring his subpoena not getting the same treatment from the Freedumb KKKaucus? Oh yeah, because they are complete hypocrites who have no self-awareness!

RC January 16, 2024 at 3:41 pm

“After making a mess of those proceedings, he waltzed out of the room.”

Will accuses a guy only sitting in the audience of making a mess of the proceedings, while he applauds the ridiculous performative politics of reps like Mace. You can’t make this shit up.


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