Politics

Palmetto Political Stock Index – 6/4/2024

Where should you invest your political capital this week?

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‘The waiting is the hardest part,’ late rock-n-roll icon Tom Petty once sang … and as we slide into June in sunny South Carolina, events on both the state and national stages have Palmetto politicos perched on the edges of their seats, playing the waiting game.

Nationally, all anyone can focus on is the fallout from former U.S. president Donald Trump‘s historic conviction in lower Manhattan last week. How will those multiple guilty verdicts reshape the 2024 election … if at all?

Closer to home, we are now just one week away from a pivotal partisan primary election in South Carolina – one which will determine whether a nascent conservative movement within the GOP-controlled S.C. General Assembly survives a full-frontal status quo onslaught.

Or … not.

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Over the past year, our founding editor Will Folks and political columnist Mark Powell have been monitoring developments on multiple fronts via our Palmetto Political Stock Index. As previously noted, each installment is an assessment of how our subjects fared over the previous seven days. Positive reports don’t reflect endorsements, and negative ones aren’t (necessarily) 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.

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

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DONALD TRUMP

STOCK: HOLDING

Unless you’ve just returned from vacationing in the veld of Africa – or been awakened from a coma – you know Donald Trump made presidential history last week … again. He’s now the first former president ever convicted of a criminal charge. All told, there were 34 “guilty” verdicts handed down against him.

On the off-chance you somehow missed the detonation of this political bombshell, click here to learn what happened …

While the verdicts are in the books – everything else is up in the air. We don’t yet know the impact Trump becoming a convicted felon will have on voters. Early polling suggests it’s essentially a push – for now – cementing anti-Trumpers (Democrats and #NeverTrump Republicans) in their views while simultaneously enraging and mobilizing the MAGA faithful.

But that’s no surprise … those voters made up their minds a long time ago. What about crucial swing voters? Or better yet, swing voters in swing states? You know, the few hundred thousand people in a handful of battleground states whose ballots will actually decide this contest come November? The early evidence suggests they’re taking a wait-and-see approach, perhaps delaying their decision until Trump is formally sentenced next month on the eve of the GOP convention.

How would a presidential race unfold with one major party nominee campaigning from Sing Sing? Don’t laugh; it’s happened before. Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist Party of America’s candidate, got a whopping 914,191 votes in the 1920 election while locked up inside the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, where he was sent for having obstructed the U.S. war effort in World War I.

One thing is certain: Trump supporters are standing by him with their wallets. They’ve donated nearly $55 million to his campaign since the guilty verdict was returned. That kind of money can go a long way toward effectively spreading Trump’s “If they can do this to me, they can do it to anyone” message to all those undecideds.

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PALMETTO TRUTH PROJECT

STOCK: FALLING

If you’re a GOP voter in South Carolina, chances are your mailbox has been clogged recently with pieces from the Palmetto Truth Project. That’s the front group that openly admits it is pushing “Republican” candidates which carry the seal of approval from the state’s governing uniparty (yet which stays graveside silent about the dark money behind its relentlessly negative campaign).

But it turns out the Palmetto Truth Project has been untruthful – and it admits it.

The group with the sketchy, secret backing sent out a mailer recently accusing its nemesis, S.C. Freedom Caucus leader and RJ May III, of proposing a bill that would have required the death penalty for women who had an abortion.

The problem with this attack ad? May neither co-sponsored nor supported any such legislation.

After the damage was done, the Palmetto Truth Project’s minions tweeted a mea culpa of sorts – admitting their error and saying “we assumed (May) would have joined” calls for such a push. But they were dead wrong.

Looks like those minions never heard the old adage about what happens whenever someone “assumes” anything.

Acknowledging that the group jumped to conclusions after sending out thousands of attack mailers is like a cybercriminal saying “sorry your bank account is empty” having just cleaned it out.

Think an apology mailer acknowledging the mis-truth will be sent out?

Don’t bet on it …

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NIKKI HALEY

STOCK: RISING

The long, tortured relationship between Donald Trump and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley clearly isn’t over … with the former president reprising the role of a glutton for punishment.

Sadomasochistic, much?

For over a year, Haley ran a two-faced presidential campaign in which she said a few nice things about the former president and then, without pausing to catch a breath, argued he shouldn’t get a second term. Voters weren’t buying what she was selling, at which point Haley sullenly withdrew from the race without throwing her support to the winner. Last month, though, came a belated “endorsement” of Trump – one in which she stopped shy of urging her supporters to vote for him.

Surprisingly, Trump is responding by saying nice things about Haley once again, telling a reporter last week “I think she’s going to be on our team … we had a nasty campaign, it was pretty nasty, but she’s a very capable person, and I’m sure she’s going to be on our team in some form, absolutely.”

Huh?

Could that role come in the form of running mate?  Trump said “no” to that suggestion earlier this year but in politics, what sounds firm in the springtime has a way of becoming far less certain in the heat of summer. 

In the meantime, Haley continues to have a national voice. And what’s really curious about that is how Donald Trump keeps amplifying it for her. In 2016, Haley was a term-limited governor of a small southern state, seemingly destined to spend her post-retirement years pulling down big bucks on the boards of crony capitalist corporations she favored while in office. She did manage time to lead the #NeverTrump resistance in the Palmetto State in 2016 (another fight she lost). But after that he plucked her from impending obscurity and plopped her down in the United Nations.

Haley used that high-profile gig as a springboard for this year’s presidential race, where she proceeded to come as close to trashing her former benefactor as she dared. Trump dispatched her in the primary cycle with minimal ease, seemingly relegating her to political obscurity once more.

Until … he decided to pull her back in the limelight yet again? Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice said in Wonderland. 

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JOE BIDEN

STOCK: HOLDING

The good news for Joe Biden: His approval ratings aren’t in a free fall any more.

The bad news for Biden: According to FiveThirtyEight, his unfavorable ratings are nearly 18 percentage points higher than his favorable ones – which is not the place you want to be 20 weeks before Election Day.  Oh, he was also trailing Trump in six key battleground states he won in 2020.

If Biden thinks the Trump guilty verdict is his ticket to an automatic reelection, he better think again. As a popular meme circulating on social media puts it, “Gas is still above $3.00 a gallon, each trip to grocery costs more than the trip before, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford the power bill this summer. I’ve got bigger things to worry about than paying hush money to a has-been porn star.”

That’s Biden’s dilemma in a nutshell. He can throw bones to Gen Z by erasing more and more of its student debt, he can mollify pro-Palestinian progressives by talking tough to Israel and he can bask in the glowing adoration of green energy aficionados for his tireless EV support to his heart’s content.

But he cannot make the genuine financial pain everyday working-class Americans are experiencing go away – and until that happens, his submerged approval numbers aren’t going anywhere.

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ROBERT F KENNEDY JR.

STOCK: RISING

Say what you will about the guy, but Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is proving to be more than a flash in the pan. He’s got chops, and that’s producing political staying power. So much staying power, in fact, that he’s approaching the threshold of qualifying for this month’s presidential debate between Biden and Trump.

If that happens, Kennedy would become the first independent candidate to take the stage at a presidential debate since Ross Perot in 1992. So, yeah, it would be a big deal. Because nothing gives a would-be president credibility like the optics of being viewed on an even plain with both the incumbent and his immediate predecessor. So we repeat, it’s a very, very big deal.

Kennedy has met the threshold in three national polls – and must meet it in a fourth by June 20 in order to participate. More importantly, he has qualified to be on the ballot in five states (Delaware, Hawaii, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Utah), and is reportedly making headway in fifteen additional states.

Could Kennedy hurt Biden or Trump worse? Opinions are split, though the general consensus is he would make an appealing alternative to Democrats turned off by Biden – but who can’t stomach voting for Trump.

If Kennedy does wind up qualifying for the June 27, 2024 debate in Atlanta, a presidential race that’s already topsy-turvy could get a whole lot crazier.

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CATHERINE TEMPLETON

STOCK: FALLING

A bit of unsolicited advice to the Lowcountry congressional challenger: Don’t go to Las Vegas. Winning politicians usually have luck on their side, and Catherine Templeton must have used up all of hers just getting to the closing week of the campaign. 

First, Templeton flip-flopped on the one thing you can’t flip-flop on: Her brand. The Lowcountry businesswoman ran for governor in 2018 as a conservative outsider vowing to shake things up in Columbia. This time, she’s running with the enthusiastic backing of the Washington D.C. establishment. In other words, her candidacy is a product of the same good ol’ boy system she vowed to dismantle in Columbia. 

Templeton is also a terrible retail politician. She’s a polished speaker, to be sure; but it’s clear her heart just isn’t in the hand-shaking, baby-kissing aspect of seeking office – which unfortunately for her is the part that plays so well with so many South Carolinians. Meanwhile, she launched her campaign’s air war for the first congressional district with a quizzical commercial – one reminding people of her cozy connection to the state’s corporate welfare recipients.

On top of all that, governor Henry McMaster endorsed her opponent this week – taking a cue from Donald Trump, who previously endorsed Nancy Mace‘s reelection bid.

Finally (and saddest of all) this week marks her teenage son’s first court appearance in connection with his assault case. That incident isn’t necessarily Templeton’s fault; but it’s not what you want voters to be hearing as they prepare to go to the polls, either.

Also, the fact her son was a paid campaign staffer at the time of his arrest complicates the calculus.

Bottom line? Given Mace’s stellar fundraising and her purportedly solid lead in the polls (she’s up 20 points according to one survey we’ve seen), Templeton likely won’t need to keep a bottle of champagne on ice come Tuesday night.

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ADAM MORGAN

STOCK: HOLDING

State representative Adam Morgan – the chairman of the S.C. Freedom Caucus – is keeping the pressure on incumbent congressman William Timmons as they approach the finish line in the Palmetto State’s hotly contested fourth congressional district race. But here’s an incredible statistic to keep in mind: More than one in three GOP voters say they haven’t made up their mind yet.

A recent poll we saw showed Morgan trailing Timmons by five points. Normally, that’s good for an incumbent when election day is only a week away. But here’s the thing: That same poll showed a whopping 35 percent of GOP voters were undecided.

In other words, there’s plenty of time for Morgan to make up that ground – and perhaps even gain yardage. Or … perhaps not. The flip side of that coin is that Timmons could rally to a blowout win given his decided advantage on television.

The only thing we know for sure? That we’re a week away from finding out …

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THE PINE TREE FLAG

STOCK: RISING

An obscure Revolutionary War relic is receiving renewed attention these days thanks to the misplaced indignation of progressive Democrats.

Many popular symbols were used by American colonists during their break with England nearly 250 years ago. The stars and stripes banner was foremost among them – followed by the famous rattlesnake-emblazoned “Don’t Tread on Me” banner (formally known as the Gadsden Flag to hard-core vexillophiles).

Less well-known was the Pine Tree Flag. Conceived by George Washington himself, it features an evergreen tree with the words “An Appeal To Heaven” in black letters above it. 

Fast forward to modern times. It turns out U.S. supreme court justice Samuel Alito had the audacity to fly this flag at his New Jersey beach house – which got woke/ progressives’ panties in a wad.

It seems some participants in the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol carried the very same flag – and that was a smoking gun to the radical left. In a bit of logic that was more twisted than a sailor’s hitch knot, they concluded that Alito sympathizes with Donald Trump and thus should recuse himself from any upcoming cases that may reach the high court regarding Trump and presidential immunity.

The claim was utterly ridiculous and didn’t fool anybody. It was a fig leaf over a feeble attempt by the left to remove a conservative justice from hearing the case.

Normally, that would be the end of another typical tempest in a teapot tale, the kind Washington, D.C. thrives on. But there’s a caveat to this story. Flag dealers now report that the Pine Tree Flags – usually a slow mover – are suddenly selling like hotcakes. Business is so brisk, in fact, some stores can’t keep up with the demand for them.

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WANNA SOUND OFF?

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2 comments

Greyson G June 4, 2024 at 8:24 pm

Will, you are sending mix messages by featuring ads with a drag queen on this diehard MAGA media site.

Is this Biggs fellow trolling you or are you that desperate for ad revenue. Sad!

Reply
J Doe June 4, 2024 at 11:46 pm

Crossed over and voted in the GOP primary today so I could vote AGAINST Morgan. That turd doesn’t need any more terms as an elected representative.

Reply

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