Politics

Palmetto Political Stock Index – 2/11/2024

A big blow for Biden, a humiliating loss for Haley, and the worst finally over for Bud Light?

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Joe Biden faced renewed criticism over his mental acuity, Nikki Haley lost to nobody, Donald Trump threw a bone to Bud Light, and the GOP continued its valiant fight against … itself?

These were just a few of the political developments we tracked during a busy week leading up to this month’s “First in the South” Republican presidential primary – which is shaping up to be another huge victory for Trump and a potentially decisive defeat for Haley.


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For the past eleven months, founding editor Will Folks and political columnist Mark Powell have been tracking trajectories in this race via our Palmetto Political Stock Index. As noted before, each installment is an assessment of how our various subjects have fared over the previous week. As always, positive reports don’t reflect endorsements, and negative ones aren’t indicative of vendettas. We just call ‘em like we see ‘em.

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.

There were headaches aplenty for the lead characters in the political world last week. How’s that impacting their stock value this week? It’s time to find out. Let’s roll!

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JOE BIDEN

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STOCK: FALLING

When the history of the current presidential campaign is written, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, will be remembered as the day the bottom fell out for Joe Biden. By the time Americans went to bed that night, only the most diehard Biden acolytes could deny what the rest of the country now saw: The emperor has no clothes.

Things came unwound when the much-anticipated report from Justice Department special counsel Robert Hur‘s investigation into Biden’s mishandling of classified documents came out. 

It was a 388-page bombshell that said Biden willfully retained and shared those hush-hush papers — some of which were even carelessly dumped in the garage of his Delaware home. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

After detailing how Biden broke the law, the report then went on to say he shouldn’t face charges for his actions, calling him a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” It said he “did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended (‘If it was 2013 — when did I stop being vice president?’), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began (‘In 2009, am I still vice president?’).” The report even added, “He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died.”

Though Biden beat the rap, the damage was done – and the White House responded by descending into full freakout mode. 

It was abruptly announced Biden would hold a televised news conference that night without giving a topic. That information void whipped the White House press corps into a frenzy of speculation. Would Biden announce he was dropping his reelection bid? Was he resigning? Would we soon be hearing “President Kamala Harris?”

When Biden finally appeared before the cameras, Americans saw a rambling, angry old man. Biden lashed out at everyone. He was furious with the special counsel (“How in the hell dare he raise (his son’s death)? I don’t need anyone to remind me when he passed away”), was blatantly snarky to a Fox News correspondent (“My memory is so bad, I let you speak”), and even threw his own staff under the bus (“Things that were moved, were moved not by me, but my staff, but my staff”), even though the report noted he “willfully” possessed the papers.

Then it happened. The only way things could get even worse for Biden suddenly did. He confirmed the report’s conclusions when his mangled memory confused the presidents of Mexico and Egypt. 

The president eventually stormed out of the room in a snit – blaming everyone but himself in a cheap, shoddy performance that was beneath the dignity of the presidency.

The satirical Babylon Bee summed up the situation perfectly with its headline the next morning. “Man Ruled Too Senile To Stand Trial Still Fine To Run Country.”

It would be funny — if it weren’t so disturbing.

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GOP DYSFUNCTION

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STOCK: FALLING

Democrats can at least take cold comfort in this: the Grand Old Party is a Grand Old Mess.

While dissatisfaction has been boiling for a long time, it began spilling over publicly at the RNC’s winter meeting in Las Vegas late last month. A nasty aftertaste still lingers in millions of Republican mouths after the GOP’s spectacularly underwhelming performance in the 2022 midterm elections. Even worse, party activists see little evidence of anything changing this cycle.

“We are at war!” one Republican screamed at an event hosted by Turning Point Action during January’s Vegas confab. “Where are the tools? Where are all the little things that the Left is doing but we don’t?”

The GOP’s response? A string of “Well, uhs….”

Much of the blame rightfully belongs at the feet of RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel – who presided over the 2022 disaster. It surprised no one when The New York Times reported last Tuesday that McDaniel had informed presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump that she intended to resign after South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary on February 24, 2024. The report said Trump would likely tap North Carolina party boss Michael Whatley to succeed her.

But McDaniel pulled a “not so fast” move Wednesday, circulating a memo that said, in essence, “I’m not going anywhere.” At least not for now. McDaniel hedged that by saying “nothing has changed and there will not be any changes decided on until after South Carolina.”

That backpedaling infuriated many rank-and-file Republicans eager to move into a post-McDaniel era. “It’s time for Rona to relieve herself or get off the pot,” one GOP consultant rather indelicately put it.

For now, though, it looks as though the RNC soap opera will drag on into at least March and possibly beyond …

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DREW McKISSICK

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STOCK: RISING

One of the worst-kept secrets in Palmetto politics is that South Carolina GOP chair Drew McKissick wants the top RNC job. And if McDaniel is on her way out, the timing may work to his advantage.

For starters, he’s on good terms with Donald Trump. While the two aren’t necessarily BFFs, McKissick has managed to stay in the notoriously mercurial former president’s good graces. And Trump showered his endorsement blessings on the chairman’s earlier reelection efforts — again, and again, and again.

While North Carolina’s Whatley appears to have the inside track for Trump’s anointment as RNC head honcho, a blowout in the ‘First in the South’ GOP primary — coupled with McKissick’s equally strong connections to Trump’s senior staff — may be enough to persuade Trump he’s looking at the wrong Carolinian.

It’s also worth noting that should McKissick eventually swap his job in Columbia for the one in the District of Columbia, it would create an interesting political dynamic. With Jaime Harrison as chair of the Democratic National Committee, South Carolinians could wind up leading both major parties.

And having two prominent national spotlights simultaneously shining on the Palmetto State would certainly be a good thing …

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DONALD TRUMP

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STOCK: RISING

A rough week in court, a good week on the campaign trail for the once and (possibly) future president.

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court said Trump isn’t immune from prosecution in his federal 2020 election trial. That was a blow to his hopes to put at least one of his multiple criminal cases behind him.

Then, on Thursday, his attorneys argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging Colorado’s legally dubious decision to bar him from the Centennial State’s March 5 primary ballot. This case is so serious Trump stayed away from the high court and didn’t engage in any of the grandstanding courtroom antics we’ve seen before. 

The atmosphere was warmer — both politically and temperature-wise — on Saturday afternoon at a Trump rally in Conway, S.C. He made it clear he’s looking for more than a win here in two weeks: He’s eyeing an electoral tsunami that will both sweep rival Nikki Haley out of the race and also set the stage for a rematch against Biden, saying, “We want to send a signal for November.” If the polling and anecdotal evidence are correct, he’s on track to get it.

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NIKKI HALEY

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STOCK: FALLING

There’s no way to sugarcoat it; this was downright embarrassing

Nevada’s dueling presidential primary and competing caucuses last week were the political equivalents of carnival freak shows. Long story short, candidates could only enter one or the other contest. Trump chose the caucuses; Haley picked the primary. That should have cleared the way for her to score her first statewide win of the campaign.

It “should have,” but it didn’t. Because when the 16 percent of Nevada Republicans who opted to participate in Tuesday’s primary voted, 63.2 percent of them made “None of the above” the winner. Haley – the only other candidate on the ballot whose name was on the ballot – finished second with 30.5 percent.

There was the predictable “this primary didn’t mean anything” post-voting spin. But let’s face it: Coming in second in a race when you’re the only candidate in it is like losing to a dead guy.

Haley’s looming shellacking on her home turf in South Carolina makes these dire days for her increasingly beleaguered campaign. Her supporters are hoping a Hail Mary surge of Democrat crossovers and independents will save her Palmetto State bacon – but that’s looking like an increasingly long shot with each passing day.

True to her oft-repeated self-definition as being “feisty,” Haley’s campaign ran a mobile billboard through the Myrtle Beach area Saturday ahead of Trump’s rally, reminding Republicans that Joe Biden isn’t the only elderly candidate in this race.

But is anyone here listening to her anymore?

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CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS

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STOCK: FALLING

“Republicans” in the U.S. House are reeling from a week of double-barreled bad news that left them with twin black eyes. In a big blow to freshman House speaker Mike Johnson, a stand-alone bill providing $17.6 billion in aid to Israel – legislation he insisted on advancing – went down in flames. And in a major setback for the GOP in its attempt to get tough on illegal immigration, a push to impeach embattled U.S. Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas failed a key procedural test by two votes.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, GOP senators defied minority leader Mitch McConnell (who never met a piece of Democratic legislation he didn’t like) and torpedoed a hugely unpopular immigration reform bill. The 49-50 procedural vote not only killed this supposedly “bipartisan” measure; it also opened the door for conservatives to challenge the 81-year-old McConnell. 

“This is our opportunity to take him out,” one GOP senator was quoted as saying.

McConnell must now convince Republicans he’s not too cozy with Democrats as his critics claim. But with this new threat to his leadership emerging, that ship may have already sailed. Likewise, a growing number of House Republicans now wonder if Speaker Johnson is ready for prime time after all.

Will the forthcoming spring breezes carry with them a scent of rebellion in Washington, D.C.?

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BUD LIGHT BOYCOTT

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STOCK: RISING

Many moons have passed since our index mentioned last year’s incredibly impactful Bud Light beer boycott. With the first anniversary of that corporate FUBAR approaching, could conservatives be on the brink of kissing and making up with America’s formerly bestselling brand of suds?

You will recall the brouhaha started when brewer Budweiser went Woke and lauded transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney as part of an advertising campaign last spring. That didn’t sit well with Bud Light’s Baby Boomer customer base, an amalgam of urban blue-collar Joe Six-packs and country good ol’ boys in pickups who made it a highly lucrative line for parent company AB InBev.

Those blue cans suddenly stopped flying off cooler shelves. Sales plummeted by 30 percent; things got so bad that by last summer, Bud Light was knocked off its #1 seller perch for the first time in over two decades by Modelo Especial.

Then Donald Trump jumped in. He took to his social media platform on Tuesday. Calling the questionable ad “a mistake of epic proportions,” he then gave the battered brewer a boost. Insisting it is not a “woke company,” he went on to add, “Anheuser-Busch is a Great American Brand that perhaps deserves a second chance?”

Wall Street was certainly in a forgiving mood. Trump’s shoutout immediately sent company stock up about $2 a share, or almost 3 percent.

But the bigger question remains: Will beer guzzlers follow a famously non-drinking ex-president’s advice? If they do, the boys in the home office will want to hoist a can on high and tell Trump, “This Bud’s for you.”

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