SC Politics

Palmetto Political Stock Index – 5/14/2024

This weeks political buys, sells and holds …

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It’s been nearly six months since former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley attained her apex on the national stage … which, curiously, was around the same time a major push was underway to make her the next “Republican” vice president of the United States.

That push fell apart, though … and shortly thereafter, so did Haley’s national ambitions. So … why are we talking about Haley and the vice presidency again today?

Because in politics and environmentalism, recycling is caring …

Over the last year, our founding editor Will Folks and political columnist Mark Powell have been monitoring political developments in South Carolina (and beyond) via our Palmetto Political Stock Index.  With the ‘First in the South’ presidential primary season now in the rearview, our index has been focusing more intently on statewide developments.

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As previously noted, each installment of this index is an assessment of how our subjects fared over the previous week. Positive reports are not endorsements, and negative ones aren’t 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.

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

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NIKKI HALEY

STOCK: HOLDING

Well, that didn’t last long. The news site Axios dropped a bombshell early Saturday when it reported that Trump World was considering Nikki Haley as a potential vice presidential nominee. Hours later, Donald Trump himself shot down the trial balloon … err, speculation.

The initial report significantly rattled all segments of the GOP political world. MAGA acolytes were livid someone who’d spent a year trying to torpedo their guy might soon join him on the ticket. Haley supporters likewise viewed the prospect as a betrayal. In the eyes of GOP #NeverTrumpers, how could Haley even consider running alongside a guy they’ve fitted for horns, cloven hooves and a pitchfork?

“Nikki Haley is not under consideration for the V.P. slot, but I wish her well!” Trump wrote on his Truth social platform. Then, just to make sure nobody missed the point, he added, “D.J.T.”

What’s curious here is who did not step forward and slam on the brakes. Haley stayed silent throughout the brief tempest in a teapot. Any publicity is good publicity, right?

The whole thing has turned into a whodunnit as political junkies sift through the charred remains, seeking clues as to who leaked what to whom. Were the two camps actually talking to each other? Did one side leak it as a trial balloon to see how Trump-Haley ’24 would play? More ominously, did someone deep inside one team or the other leak it in a (successful) effort to torpedo a potential deal?

We may never know for sure … all that’s certain is (according to DJT) there will be no Trump-Haley ticket. For now. Far be it from Donald Trump to ever change his mind, right?

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2024 SWING STATES

STOCK: RISING

Speaking of the presidential race, a new poll is raising eyebrows in political circles. The latest Times/ Siena results are back – and chock full of surprises. The latest poll focused on six swing states likely determine who wins the White House – and it was a blast of bad news for Joe Biden with Trump leading in five of those six states.

Biden has a narrow lead (+2) in Wisconsin. But Trump is on top in all the others: Pennsylvania (+3), Arizona (+7), Michigan (+7), Georgia (+10) and Nevada (+12).

Interestingly (and perhaps tellingly), Trump’s increase in these states is being driven by noticeable gains with young, black and Latino voters. One political analyst called that “surprising.” It shouldn’t be. People in those groups often earn less money than others, which means the endless inflationary price increases fueled by Biden’s equally endless federal spending sprees are hitting them especially hard.

As for Wisconsin, keep in mind the Republican National Convention will be held in Milwaukee this summer. That quadrennial confab often leads to a polling bounce for the host party. If that happens, look for Air Force One to touch down often in the Badger State this fall and for Biden to swap his beloved ice cream for beer and brats during his many campaign swings there. 

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PALMETTO TRUTH PROJECT

STOCK: FALLING

Truth, they say, is the first casualty in war. That’s especially true in political warfare, as the oxymoronically named Palmetto Truth Project is showing these days.

It’s no secret this dark money organization is the S.C. “Republican” establishment’s flamethrower – a vehicle for saying the sort of nasty things its status quo candidates want to avoid saying as part of their effort to oust conservative lawmakers. This news outlet has previously reported how this group is joined at the hip with the GOP leadership in the S.C. General Assembly – linkages its advisors say they’ve publicly acknowledged.

Really? When? Where?

There’s certainly never been any acknowledgment as to where the resources feeding the Palmetto Truth Project’s relentless attack machine come from. It is truly “dark money” in the darkest sense of the phrase. The same group that attacks members of the S.C. Freedom Caucus and allied candidates does so with the impunity of those too self-important to be bothered by openness and transparency.

Among other demonstrably false missives, the “Truth” squad is blanketing the state with mail pieces and text messages accusing Freedom Caucus members of pushing for women who have had abortions to stand trial for murder. The claim is outrageously false – yet that didn’t stop these self-identified proclaimers of the truth from spreading this falsehood.

The Palmetto Truth Project has labeled state representative RJ May III its Public Enemy #1, and it’s not letting minor details like facts stand in the way of bringing him down. A mailer and text message sent to May’s constituents last week claimed “RJ May proposed a bill to sentence women, our daughters, and granddaughters, to death who have abortions.”

The problem? May never proposed such a bill.

“I didn’t propose it, I didn’t co-sponsor it, and in fact, I voted against that language during the debate over the Fetal Heartbeat Bill,” May told us.

With “Republican” leaders refusing to rein in their sinister creation, expect even bigger and nastier falsehoods in the coming weeks …

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DONALD TRUMP

STOCK: HOLDING

It’s been another week of treading water for the former president, including a few moments during which he dozed off inside a Manhattan courtroom as his first criminal trial continues. But therein lies the danger to candidate Trump …

His show trial on charges of paying hush money to a porn star may wind up working for Democrats after all – though not in the way they’d planned. As these legal proceedings drag on, it’s clear the case itself is making no noticeable impact on the polls. Those who loved Trump before still love him; those who’ve always hated him now hate him more than ever. So, in that regard, it’s a political push.

The real risk to Trump comes from his frequent napping. On the one hand, it’s understandable. If you’ve ever sat through a protracted trial in person, let’s face it — big chunks of it are dry as dust. Forget what you’ve seen on “Boston Legal” or “LA Law,” where courtroom drama is neatly compacted to fit into a 60-minute time slot. Real-life legal wrangling is as dull as yesterday’s dishwater – and about as interesting.

But when Trump is seen snoozing through it, it’s a reminder that the guy turns 78 years old next month. And when a big part of your reelection pitch consists of “I’m sharper than the 81-year-old running against me,” you don’t want Democrats to be able to say “yeah, but at least our guy can stay awake in the middle of the day.”

Trump should pray his trial wraps up soon … or start stocking no-Doz in the courtroom.

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MICAH CASKEY

STOCK: FALLING

If buffoonery were an Olympic sport, Micah Caskey would be a gold medalist. Further proof of that was unnecessary, but the second-term lawmaker from West Columbia provided some last week anyway.

With the 2024 legislative session in its waning hours – a time when every moment counted – Caskey seized the moment to make an ever bigger ass of himself than usual. The rotund RINO derided his colleagues in the S.C. Freedom Caucus by putting on a tinfoil hat and emblazoning it with the group’s logo – implying those who disagree with him are crazies.

“That would have been hilarious — when I was in the third grade,” one House member was overheard saying.

The stunt delighted GOP establishment types – and their mainstream media apologists. But its timing – on the eve of Caskey and his allies being exposed as the driving forces behind the “Truth” project – was inopportune.

Also, Caskey’s stunt encouraged Freedom Caucus members to block a health care restructuring bill that the establishment had been counting on dragging across the finish line.

Meaning the joke was on them …

Somewhere in America right now, a circus is missing its star clown.

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PUBLIC SAFETY IN SOUTH CAROLINA

STOCK: FALLING

Violent criminals in South Carolina can breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing the 2024 legislative session ended without anything resembling meaningful reform of how judges are chosen in the Palmetto State. The S.C. General Assembly showed zero interest in fixing the failed status quo that continues to endanger public safety, re-victimize victims and erode the integrity of our courts.

Before the 2024 legislative session began, we called out this farce for exactly what it has become … a political solution as opposed to an actual solution.

South Carolina remains one of only two states in America (Virginia is the other) in which legislators pick judges. This extremely cozy relationship routinely leads to probation and lax sentences for bad guys who don’t deserve it – while perpetually lining the pockets of the same lawyer-legislators who keep the shady arrangement going.

Is that justice? Sadly, in South Carolina it continues to be despite the best efforts of a growing group of reformers.

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2024 POLITICAL CALENDAR

STOCK: RISING

We recently crossed the six-month threshold before November’s all-important elections. Sounds like it’s a lifetime away, doesn’t it? And yet, just as with so much else in life, time is different in politics. Veteran pols know “six months” in politics isn’t the same as six months in reality.

Here’s why: We’re now in the middle of May, and many folks are making plans for the upcoming long Memorial Day holiday weekend. So then we’re into June, and families are transitioning from having the kiddies at school all day to being stuck with them full-time.

July and August are filled with the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. But let’s be honest: both nominations were locked up long ago, and the only question remaining is who’s going to run with Trump? Only political junkies will be watching those events on C-Span. The rest of America will either be on summer vacation or counting down the days until summer vacation begins.

Before you know it we have arrived at Labor Day, followed by the annual torment of getting the kiddos into their back-to-school groove. Once that routine is reestablished, we will be in the middle of September.

And guess what? At that point, there are only seven weeks left to Election Day — just 49 days. Now, campaigns are in frantic overdrive mode because everything they’ve worked so hard and so long for will either reach fruition or collapse like a house of cards on the evening of Tuesday, November 5, 2024.

That 49-day window is especially critical this time around. With opinions for and against Joe Biden and Donald Trump already so deeply baked in, a tiny sliver of the electorate will decide the winner. And both sides will be micro-targeting like never before.

So, these final weeks of spring – and the first few weeks of summer – are critical to campaigns. It’s essentially that they have everything positioned just right and are able to pounce when that final 49-day stretch begins. Because whether election night will be happy or sad for them depends a whole lot on what they do right now.

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WANNA SOUND OFF?

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