Politics

Palmetto Political Stock Index – 6/19/2024

Where should you invest your political stock this week?

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Speculation mounts: Who’ll be Trump’s running mate? 

Also, a “crazy” runoff season shifts into high gear …

And a familiar jobs bandito has struck again — this time right here in South Carolina.

We’re in the lull between the state primary election last week and a spate of runoff contests next week. But the low-key atmosphere is masking some high drama building behind the scenes. Making this “breather” the ideal time to bring your political stock portfolio up to date.

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 are presently faring. 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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2026 SC GOVERNOR’S RACE

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STOCK: RISING

We’ll let you in on a little secret: The race to see who succeeds status quo archetype Henry McMaster as governor of South Carolina is now officially underway. It began quietly, without fanfare, as the last votes were being counted in the June 11 primary. For the next five months candidates, would-be candidates and even those who are merely toying with the idea of running will be quietly but actively working behind the scenes, jockeying for position the moment the green flag is dropped.

We’ll be talking about the potential Democratic field in the weeks ahead. Why the lack of urgency? Considering a Democrat hasn’t won the governor’s office since 1998 – and considering there’s no Democratic powerhouse contender on the horizon – it seems safe to let this one simmer on the back burner for a while.

In the Republican camp, the early frontrunners are lieutenant governor Pamela Evette, Upstate multimillionaire businessman John Warren and S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson. None of those names have actually announced they’re seeking the job, mind you. Nor have they poured water on that speculation, either.

Evette is in the least enviable position. Lieutenant governor sounds impressive, but in reality the job is little more than a constitutional spare tire in case something happens to the governor. Evette has made the most of the second-tier limelight as possible, though. She hosted the spring meeting of her second banana colleagues in Myrtle Beach, S.C. last spring and has been a fixture on the state’s political circuit – appearing at party events, grand openings and other ceremonial gatherings – no doubt consuming more baked chicken dinners than she would prefer.

But despite the aggressive touring, who really knows her outside of the State House? Evette’s deep pockets can buy a lot of name ID, though – and she’ll need it given the other two names being bandied about at this early stage of the race-to-come.

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John Warren, our audience will recall, was the guy who came out of nowhere in 2018 and drove McMaster into a runoff for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Not a bad debut on the state political scene. Since then, his South Carolina’s Conservative Future organization has actively advocated for right-leaning candidates around the state, both recruiting them in some cases and supporting them with financial donations and direct mail pieces in others. As a result, Warren now has a pocketful of political IOUs heading into the upcoming campaign — and a personal bank account capable of making voters sit up and take notice.

As for Alan Wilson, he is in the middle of his fourth – and arguably most successful – term as attorney general. In addition to his office’s triumph in the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ saga, he enjoys a wellspring of personal affection and has successfully defined his brand as courageously standing up to federal overreach in D.C. Wilson is no slouch in the fundraising category, either, and has amassed a political war chest that could easily establish him as the 2026 gubernatorial frontrunner. Wilson has also done a commendable job of keeping one foot firmly planted within the GOP establishment while also maintaining friendly relations with the MAGA faction of the party.

That’s a difficult kabuki dance to pull off, too.

Should each of these three wind up running, the summer and fall months will be spent staking out their territory. Some observers speculate Evette could follow the Nikki Haley model – paying lip service to conservative canon while making a hard play below the surface for moderate and independent support. Warren will try to snag the hard right as his own. That could leave Wilson with the center and center-right as his turf.

Will all three of these candidates actually run? Will others join them? Will there be a curveball nobody can see coming at the moment that could complicate the political calculus? We’ve got all summer to find out. Stay tuned.

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PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

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STOCK: RISING

Anytime the two major party presidential nominees appear together on the same stage before live TV cameras, the stakes are high. But next week’s Biden-Trump encounter has a very real chance of being the Mother of All Debates.

Its sheer history-making scope alone is breathtaking. This will be the first time two presidents have ever debated one another and the first time Democrats and Republicans have run the same presidential nominees in back-to-back elections since 1956. It’s also the first presidential debate to ever be held before September; and, in fact, it will be the first time candidates have ever debated before even receiving their party’s presidential nomination.

Observers are wondering which Joe Biden and which Donald Trump will show up in the Atlanta TV studio on June 27. Will it be the same Biden who bounced through the State of the Union address a few months back like a college freshman hopped up on five-hour energy drinks? Or will it be Uncle Forgetful, the guy whose gaze suddenly goes blank, who wanders off from podiums like Stanley searching for Livingstone in the bowels of Africa, and who then tosses out bizarrely absurd tidbits? (Remember his recent cringeworthy claim that cannibals may have consumed his uncle in World War II?) 

Likewise, which Trump will we see? Will he play the same old broken record about how the 2020 election was stolen from him? Will he play the victim card while also playing the role of a modern Joan of Arc burned at the stake by weaponized lawfare? And will he have his own disastrous “senior moment”? (Like what happened during his speech in Detroit last weekend when he blasted Biden’s cognitive decline, then in the very next breath confused the name of his own White House doctor.)

More significantly, an even bigger question is waiting to be answered: In a country obsessed with youth-driven culture, are Americans willing to stomach watching two grumpy old men go at each other like angry badgers? Forget Gallup’s poll numbers afterward; the Nielsen ratings will tell us all we need to know. 

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GOP VEEPSTAKES

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STOCK: RISING

The hottest guessing game in the country these days is, “Who’s Donald Trump Going to Pick For His Running Mate?” (followed closely by “Will Trump See the Inside of the Slammer Next Month?”).

Who has the inside trade for getting the nod? U.S. senator JD Vance of Ohio. Or U.S. senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Or even South Carolina’s own U.S. senator, Tim Scott. Or — as hard as this is to believe — North Dakota governor Doug Burgum. In the past few days, different national publications have reported that each of those aforementioned politicians appears to be the running mate front-runner. 

Meaning no one really knows for sure.

Every one of them would bring something to the ticket. Vance: Rust Belt (the swing states of Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, among them) appeal. Rubio: Florida and its thirty Electoral College votes. Scott: Increased minority appeal. Burgum: A conduit to Big Tech money, such as the cool $100 million or so in the guv’s personal bank account.

Then there’s the wild card: Nikki Haley. Pundits remain divided about the possibility of a Trump-Haley ticket, a possibility Trump himself closed the door on several weeks back. There’s the “Nothing is ever certain with Trump, who could easily change his mind” school of thought. It argues the laundry list of potential veep candidates is a smokescreen to buy time until he ultimately surprises Republicans by picking her. The other view holds, “No way. They’re making nice at the moment because each needs the other politically. And that’s all there is to it.” In Trump World, betrayal of the boss (real or imagined) is an unforgivable sin, and while Haley has been publicly forgiven, her slights and digs haven’t been forgotten.

The headline of a recent guest op-ed by Ramin Setoodeh in The New York Times put it this way: “Trump Isn’t Choosing A Running Mate. He’s Casting a Co-Star.” 

Though this guessing game is wildly popular for the time being, it has a very limited shelf life. With the Republican National Convention now just four weeks away, Trump can’t keep us guessing forever. Or can he?

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SC CITIZENSHIP

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STOCK: FALLING

We hate to inject a downer note, but we must. Before we close the books on last week’s state primary once and for all, we must note the statewide voter turnout averaged an atrocious 13.5 percent. That’s beyond bad, people.

When we shared that figure by phone with a political operative in another southern state, he replied, “you did say 30.5 percent, right?” Told that no, it was actually 13.5 percent he replied as follows …

“Dude, South Carolina should be ashamed of itself.”

We’ll leave it at that …

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RUNOFF ELECTION

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STOCK: RISING

If turnout for the primary was so bad, one shudders to imagine how unimaginably low it will be during next week’s runoff elections. In South Carolina, if no candidate receives a majority of votes in a partisan primary election, the top two candidates face off in a head-to-head runoff race two weeks later.

In other words, voters who clearly had no interest in showing up last Tuesday will have another opportunity to bail on the ballot box next Tuesday.

Nonetheless, there will be a healthy smattering of runoff races around the state. The biggest one of them is in the Palmetto State’s bright red third congressional district – where MAGA pastor Mark Burns is facing off against Air National Guard lieutenant colonel and nurse Sheri Biggs for the Republican nomination.

At the state level, two S.C. House races are being waged between the establishment and the conservative wing of the part. In Greenville County, South Carolina Freedom Caucus-allied Chris Huff – another pastor – is taking on GOP insider Kerri Smith. In neighboring Spartanburg County, Freedom Caucus-backed candidate Sarita Edgerton is battling Joanne LaBounty.

The Freedom Caucus outperformed expectations during last week’s primary … can they keep it rolling in next week’s runoffs?

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TUPPERWARE

Food Storage Containers

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STOCK: FALLING

How, you ask, do those plastic containers your mom filled the family fridge with when you were growing up make this week’s PPSI report? Because of their Palmetto State connection.

It’s the end of an era. For nearly eight decades the colorful canisters, popularized in the early days by Tupperware Parties hosted in neighborhood homes, have been a mainstay in middle-class family kitchens. As production costs crept up in recent years, Tupperware began moving its factories south of the border (and we don’t mean the legendary tourist mecca on Interstate 95, either.) Until finally, there was just one – and only one – plant still operating inside the U.S.A. It’s in the little town of Hemingway, South Carolina.

But not for much longer. Late last week, Tupperware announced the Hemingway plant will close in September, putting 148 people out of work and shipping their jobs off to Mexico. That’s a big blow for a town whose 2023 population was only 504 souls.

The company went out of its way to emphasize the relocation decision did not reflect on the local workforce’s performance. The bottom line is it’s just cheaper to do business in Mexico.

And so we say “adios” to yet another slice of Americana as still more old, familiar jobs settle into new homes beyond our border.

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WANNA SOUND OFF?

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