Politics

Palmetto Political Stock Index – 2/19/2024

Donald Trump lands back in court, decision time looms for Nikki Haley and one of the ritziest addresses in America gets a federal giveaway …

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Former U.S. president Donald Trump’s seemingly-endless legal bills continued to pile up, U.S. senator Joe Manchin remembered he was almost as old as Joe Biden, inflation remained stubborn, and the rich got richer …

Developments abounded this week as we kept tracking the trajectories of the political issues that matter to you … although the ‘First in the South’ presidential primary election remained a foregone conclusion.

According to RealClearPolling, Trump is besting former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley by 31 percentage points in her home state. According to FiveThirtyEight, the gap is even wider – 33.1 percentage points.

So much for suspense, right?

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Over the last eleven months, founding editor Will Folks and political columnist Mark Powell have been monitoring developments in this race via our Palmetto Political Stock Index. Each update represents an evaluation 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 isn’t 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 get your historical fix, click here. For last week’s index, 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.

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

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DONALD TRUMP

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STOCK: HOLDING

It was another rough week for Donald Trump in court – and this one could taking a big bite out of his personal bottom line. 

The barrage of suspiciously timed civil lawsuits filed against the former president includes a just-completed fraud trial. A New York judge slapped Trump hard on Friday: $364 million in fines for inflating property values along with a three-year ban from serving as a director for any company in the Empire State. Add to that the $83.3 million he was recently ordered to pay in a defamation case and Trump is looking at nearly $450 million in money owed. And that’s not counting legal fees.

Meanwhile, another judge said Trump’s first criminal case – dealing with his alleged payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels – would begin on March 25, 2024.

While it was a brutal week for Trump on the legal front, it was smooth sailing for him politically. Polling shows the bombardment of incoming fire from various courtrooms has had little to no impact on Republican primary voters – the only ones who matter to him during this phase of the campaign.

The crowd was ebullient at a Trump rally in North Charleston on Wednesday, his second campaign event in South Carolina in less than a week. Given his massive lead in the Palmetto State, only two questions remain: What will be the size of his victory – and will it be big enough to drive Nikki Haley, his last remaining Republican rival, from the race? Should that happen, Trump may have more free time to hang around the courtroom in late March than previously thought. 

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TIM SCOTT

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STOCK: RISING

One of Trump’s newest and most vocal apostles is also among the most unlikely. U.S. senator Tim Scott – who opposed Trump in 2016 and ran against him in the current election cycle – suddenly can’t find enough nice things to say about the guy he spent nearly nine months trying to beat. In a classic case of ‘that was then, this is now,’ Scott sounded almost like a gushing schoolgirl as he welcomed the ex-prez to the aforementioned North Charleston rally.

Scott even did a pre-show warmup routine, leading the crowd in chants of “We Want Trump” and “Four More Years.”

Trump slobbered love on Scott in return …

“I called him and said, ‘you know, you’re a much better candidate for me than you were for yourself,'” Trump said.

Many GOP insiders are wondering: Could we see these two politicians on a ticket this summer? Only one person knows the answer for certain, and as he likes to say, “you’ll have to stay tuned.”

For the moment, though, the veep speculation is enough to send Scott’s stock soaring …

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NIKKI HALEY

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STOCK: HOLDING

Haley’s Palmetto predicament is a lot like the old joke about relieving oneself in a navy blue suit: It gives you a nice warm feeling, but nobody notices.

Haley is rushing around the state, talking to anyone who will host her. The response is polite, even warm at times. But while many South Carolina Republicans still like their former governor, a majority of them still love their former president. And as Mr. Shakespeare would say, aye, there’s the rub.

Haley just can’t catch a break these days. As this news platform reported a few days ago, the South Carolina Democratic Party (SCDP)’s executive director sent an email to Palmetto State Democrats warning them against voting in the GOP primary – threatening to punish those who do. Translation: “If you’re thinking about voting for Nikki, you’d better think twice.”

This not-so-subtle caution against Dems casting a GOP ballot is throwing a damper on Haley’s increasingly blatant appeals to cross-over voters.

As if that weren’t enough, there was this “oops” moment for Haley on social media …

If Haley is soundly defeated this weekend – which appears to be a certainty – she will face a serious “come-to-Jesus (Waheguru?)” soul-searching moment. Another double-digit defeat would mean Haley had failed to win any of the four contests held so far—including Nevada, where she lost to “none of the above” in a one-candidate race.

Does she stubbornly soldier on to Super Tuesday – participating in primaries in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia? Or does she bow out gracefully and keep her powder dry for 2028 when, presumably, the name “Trump” won’t be blocking her at every turn?

Of course, Trump backers have made it abundantly clear the time for Haley to kiss the ring of the former president has passed … which may explain why she’s staying in the race against all odds in the hope of some miracle.

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SOUTH CAROLINA TAXPAYERS

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STOCK: HOLDING

We all make mistakes from time to time. Just try to balance your checkbook, and you’ll quickly discover “to err is human.”

There are mistakes – and then there are grossly sloppy blunders like the one that inexplicably left $1.8 billion in tax money sitting untouched in a state “flow-through” account for the last five years.

Let us set aside for a moment how this magnificent error happened (seriously, who misplaces that much money for half a decade?) The bigger and more immediate question is, what’s going to be done with it?

You can almost hear spending-addicted “Republican” state legislators – the proverbial “drunken sailors” – licking their lips at the prospect of snarfing down this buffet of new “found money.” It’s all too easy to picture them greedily rubbing their grubby paws together – and you can bet your bottom dollar (pun intended) deals are being cut between solons at this very moment as they secretly scheme on how to divvy up the loot.

But here’s a novel thought: Why not give it back in rebates to the people who paid it in the first place?

That’s our view of what should be done with this unexpected money …

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U.S. ECONOMY

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STOCK: FALLING

So there they were last December: Jerome Powell, Janet Yellen, and the entire White House economic team, all bouncy as kids on Christmas Eve. They were giving each other imaginary high fives because economic data showed inflation was slowing.

Then January rolled around and threw ice water in their faces.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced last Tuesday that the consumer price index had shot up 3.1 percent during the first month of this year, way more than economists had expected.

All that talk of “taming inflation” vanished in the blink of an eye – meaning this particular albatross remained as firmly attached to Joe Biden’s back as ever.

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TOM DAVIS

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STOCK: RISING

When you’re hot, you’re hot. And Tom Davis has certainly been on a hot streak of late …

Our index noted two weeks ago the Beaufort state senator’s stock was rising after a galaxy of South Carolina GOP stars attended his big fundraising bash in Columbia. Last week, Davis successfully shepherded a medical marijuana bill through the state Senate.

There is some grumbling on the GOP’s right flank that Davis has strayed ever so slightly from his well-established conservative bona fides. Nonsense, his supporters counter; he’s merely honed his proficiency in moving legislation.

Either way, Davis is making a name for himself as a legislator who gets things done – and that has his stock moving up again this week.

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JOE MANCHIN

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STOCK: FALLING

Joe Biden can relax. The other Joe, retiring U.S. senator Joe Manchin, won’t be running for president in 2024 after all.

Having been a thorn in the side throughout Biden’s presidency, it was feared the wily West Virginian could siphon off moderate Democratic voters were he to run on a third-party hybrid Democrat-Republican ticket.

But the 76-year-old Manchin slammed the brakes on that possibility last week, saying, “I just don’t think the time is right.” That’s political code for “with an 81-year-old Democrat and a soon-to-be 78-year-old Republican heading the pack, there’s no lane for yet another geriatric candidate.”

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ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.

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STOCK: FALLING

These are equally tough times for another independent presidential candidate. Seen six months ago as a potential spoiler, his prospects are fading on a weekly basis.

First, there was the $7 million Super Bowl TV commercial fiasco. His campaign took Uncle Jack’s then-groundbreaking 1960 TV ad and edited RFK Jr’s picture in place of JFK’s. While creative types and history buffs raved over it, its practical appeal is highly questionable. People who voted for Jack Kennedy in 1960 are now pushing ninety, after all.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. Several Kennedy cousins (and really, who can keep track of them all?) were furious. They felt plastering Robert F. over John F. was an insulting disgrace. Kennedy was forced to make a big mea culpa to keep some semblance of peace within the family.

This was followed by news reports revealing Kennedy’s campaign is a hot mess. Some 14 campaign staffers have quit since January. It seems much internal friction is arising between the team and Kennedy’s campaign manager (who is also his daughter-in-law) and communications director (a well-known, and some would say infamous, anti-vaxxer). Those who are staying with the campaign call its leadership “laughingly amateur.”

Garnishing this whole rosy scenario? Kennedy’s campaign has been blowing through money like college kids on spring break with daddy’s credit card. “Lavish” is the word staffers repeatedly use to describe the spending spree. 

If things continue in this vein, we may be able to write before long, “There was one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot 2.0,” With an emphasis on the word “brief.”

Needless to say, Kennedy’s stock is dropping to bargain bin prices …

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MARTHA’S VINEYARD ELITES

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STOCK: RISING

Nobody is singing “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” in Martha’s Vineyard, a liberal, über-rich enclave on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. But don’t tell that to the Biden administration.

This exclusive municipality is home to more than a hundred left-of-center A-Listers (including Barack Obama and Spike Lee) and the preferred vacation getaway spot for many more (including Oprah Winfrey and Bill and Hillary Clinton). And not to mention all the Kennedys still running around. You need an armored car worth of cash just to spend a weekend there. It’s the archetypical “If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it” kind of place.

Given its denizens are comfortably riding out the financial horrors of Bidenflation, you’d think they would be the last among us who deserve a break from Washington, D.C.

But you’d be dead wrong …

The EV charger credit program, part of the green energy bill Joe Biden palmed off as the sham “Inflation Reduction Act,” directs charger subsidies to be routed to so-called “non-urban” areas.

And guess which playground of the Super Rich is now classified as “non-urban”?

The White House proudly touted its latest giveaway of your tax dollars a few weeks back, saying, “This tax credit provides up to 30 percent off the cost of the charger to individuals and businesses in low-income communities and non-urban areas.”

The rich get richer, right? Talk about a sweet financial sop to the folks living in a place where most of us couldn’t afford to buy a cheese sandwich …

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WANNA SOUND OFF?

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2 comments

Nanker Phelge February 19, 2024 at 9:24 pm

PALMETTO POLITICAL STOCK INDEX

STOCK: FALLING SINCE IT BEGAN

Reply
Ralph Hightower Top fan February 19, 2024 at 10:44 pm

Sycophant is a better term for Scott.

From Merriam-Webster:
sy·?co·?phant | \ ?si-k?-f?nt , also ?s?-, -?fant \
Definition
: a servile self-seeking flatterer

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