2024

Palmetto Political Stock Index – 7/9/2024

Where to invest your political capital this week …

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A presidential crisis unlike any America has ever seen grows more intense with each passing day. It’s no exaggeration to say Democrats are dancing ever closer to the brink of an intra-party civil war as president Joe Biden clings to power – and to his place as the party’s 2024 nominee. Battle lines are rapidly being drawn, positions staked out and heels dug in for what could be an epic, history-making fight.

The gigantic question mark hanging over Biden’s head isn’t just the dominant story in politics right now … it’s the ONLY story. Talk with almost any politico in either party – at any level in any part of the Palmetto State – and within minutes, the question turns to, “so, what do you think’s going to happen with Biden?”

Will an incumbent president be forced to walk away from his party’s renomination for the first time since unpopular Democrat Lyndon Johnson bailed in 1968? Over, even more humiliating, will he become the first president since Chester Arthur in 1884 to be denied his own party’s nod?

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Over the past 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.  As previously noted, each installment is an assessment of how our subjects fared over the previous week. 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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JOE BIDEN

STOCK: FALLING

The Great Biden Comeback hit a stumbling block last Friday. Still reeling from the appalling performance he turned in during his debate with Donald Trump, the incumbent Democrat is desperately clinging to the job he clearly has no intention of giving up. Because, as he modestly told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “I don’t think anybody’s more qualified to be president or win this race than me.”

Though he couldn’t remember if he’d watched a replay of the debate, Joe Biden brushed off his calamitous appearance as “a bad night.” You know, the same way the airship Hindenburg had a “bad landing” at Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937. He went on to repeatedly trash his opponent, twice accusing Trump of lying more than two dozen times during their debate. Obviously, there wasn’t a peep about how his own White House went out of its way to cover up and hide from the public Biden’s cognitive decline in recent months.

Few were paying attention to what Biden said, though – because he has refocused attention on how he appears and sounds, millions of Americans were thinking during the 22-minute interview, “man, this guy looks really old.”

It was an astonishing contrast to just four months ago when he bounded into the U.S. House chamber for his State of the Union address with the energy of a frat boy heading off on spring break. Fast forward to today. As one observer in Washington told us, “now he looks like that frat boy who refuses to admit he’s had one too many … and whose friends need to call him an Uber to drive him back to Delaware.”

The best that could be said about Biden’s highly hyped ABC interview was, “he didn’t look as bad as he did in the debate.”

But that’s hardly enough to stop the political hemorrhaging. 

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The drip, drip, drip of defections is underway in Washington. Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas was the first to break Democratic ranks and publicly call on Biden to drop out. Other caucus members cautiously joined him. On the other side of Capitol Hill, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia is huddling with fellow Dems, trying to hammer out an exit policy.

By the weekend, Biden’s backers were pushing back and entrenching around him. “I would vote for Biden if he was in a coma” is their new refrain, while Whoopi Goldberg offered commentary on The View further lowering the bar.

"I don't care if he pooped his pants," Goldberg said. "I don't care if he can't put a sentence together."

The Biden campaign has dropped $50 million in a post-debate damage control advertising blitz, too. The new White House game plan is slowly crystalizing: Keep opponents divided while running out the clock as the party’s upcoming “virtual roll-call” to select the nominee draws closer. Without a clear rival, the thinking goes, Democrats would have no choice but to stick with the incumbent, regardless of their concerns.

On Monday, Bide double-downed with a take-no-prisoners letter to congressional Democrats saying he is "firmly committed to staying in the race." Then he garnished it with a stern admonishment: "It's time for it to end."

Still, Biden isn’t doing himself any favors. While huddled with worried Democratic governors at the White House last Wednesday night, he told them the tonic to his troubles is he needs to get more sleep and stop scheduling events after 8:00 p.m. Knowing Biden, he probably meant it as a joke. If so, it fell flat with the state chief executives—especially those up for reelection this year.

Asked point-blank during Friday’s ABC interview if he would drop out of the race, Biden replied, “if the Lord Almighty came down and said, ‘Joe, get outta the race,’ I'd get outta the race.”

If his Democratic allies keep deserting him, Biden may soon hear, “there’s an important visitor outside to see you, Mr. President.”

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KAMALA HARRIS

STOCK: RISING

Fortunes can change on a dime in politics. This time last year, some observers were wondering if the unpopular vice president might hurt Biden’s reelection chances - and potentially be jettisoned from the Democratic ticket. Today, many of those same voices are clamoring for her to replace him as the Democratic presidential nominee.

Ever since the Biden-Trump debate blew up in the incumbent’s face almost two weeks ago, Kamala Harris has been a dutiful subordinate, loyally standing up for her boss at public events and in private conversations. However, her staff hasn’t gone out of its way to swat down talk of her pinch-hitting as the Democratic standard-bearer if needed. Harris has played it smart by taking an “I’m on the team for another four years this fall — but should the top slot become open, the party will have to come to me” approach.

In short, she’s open to it but not overtly campaigning for it.

However, having Harris at the top of the ticket could bring as many headaches as opportunities - maybe more.

For starters, her personal negatives are in Biden territory and her claim to fame is the administration’s much-ballyhooed tasking her to fix illegal immigration. Have you heard how things are going on the southern border lately? Harris talking about that issue (one of voters’ top concerns this year) would be like the captain of the Titanic sharing iceberg navigation tips.

Then there’s Harris' shrill cackle - a hyena-like laugh that makes those who hear it feel downright uncomfortable. A sense of humor is an essential prerequisite for any presidential candidate, yet whatever else Kamala Harris may be, funny she ain’t.

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Where should you invest your political capital? Our Palmetto Political Stock Index has got you covered!

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Her pre-veep claim to fame was being tough on crime as California’s attorney general. But how will that play with the party’s powerful criminal justice reform crowd?

Then, there is her checkered past. Specifically, the part involving one-time California Democratic powerhouse Willie Brown. There’s no need to delve into that unseemliness now, but you can bet your bottom dollar others will be talking about it in the event she becomes the nominee. Luckily for Harris, it’s also possible most voters no longer care about a candidate’s personal life the way they once did. Congressman William Timmons had no trouble beating back a reelection challenge last month despite his torrid affair, a messy divorce, and an incredibly botched job of going public with it. Likewise, former Governor Nikki Haley’s checkered past was little more than a whisper in her unsuccessful presidential bid as well.

Perhaps most important of all, Harris is just a terrible campaigner. Remember what an utter disaster her 2020 presidential bid was?

Still, at this particular moment, many Democrats only have one — and only one — question: Is she senile? Knowing she’s not has supporters willing to roll the dice and run with her.

“Admittedly, Harris would need to be re-presented to the American public," one operative told us.

It is also true that after three-plus years of being trapped in the witness protection program that is the vice presidency, some people would give her a fresh look as a presidential candidate. But the campaign is already moving at the speed of light, and with less than four months to go to election day, the pace is growing faster every day. Is there enough time to package and sell a “New Kamala” to voters? Don’t count on it.

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BIG DOLLAR DEM DONORS

Political Stock

STOCK: HOLDING

Remember the famous adage from Watergate, “follow the money?” This is where things get especially tricky for Democrats.

While Team Biden boasts of hauling in more than $38 million since his disastrous debate, the tap is being turned off the money spigot in another financial arena. Mega-donors - the monied elite whose massive checks make eyeballs pop out of sockets - are increasingly closing their checkbooks to the Biden campaign.

Consider these two examples: Abigail Disney, an heir to the family fortune created by her great-uncle Walt, says she’s not giving another penny to the party unless Biden drops out. Ditto for entertainment mogul Barry Diller. He and his wife already gave $100,000 this cycle to a pro-Biden super PAC, and they aren’t cutting any more checks until there’s a change at the top of the ticket.

Each, in their own way, illustrates the financial danger Biden is facing. Diller is a traditional Tinseltown limousine liberal, in lockstep with Democrats every step of the way — as long as they win. Meanwhile, despite her family’s Hollywood ties, Disney is a self-described “kind of ... lefty, New York City, Manhattan, pointy-headed intellectual type.” Both factions have bankrolled Democrats stretching back to the Clinton era. (Bill, not Hillary.) If Biden loses them, he’s in serious trouble.

But there is also a ray of hope for Biden amid these darkening storm clouds. Some of the non-Biden big-money folks are adamant that Kamala Harris is equally unelectable, and are refusing to donate if she becomes the nominee.

All of which makes the Democrats’ dilemma increasingly dangerous ...

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DONALD TRUMP

STOCK: RISING

“Never interfere with an enemy while he’s in the process of destroying himself.” It seems Donald Trump is taking Napoleon’s famous words to heart these days. The former president and GOP nominee has been astonishingly quiet recently, which is downright amazing for him.

True, Lady Luck has been smiling on Trump. First, he didn’t obliterate Biden in last month’s debate - he just stood back and let Biden do it himself. Then, he watched his poll numbers rise as a result (leading by 2.3 percent nationally in 538’s aggregate polling and as much as 6 percent in others). Next, sentencing for his hush money criminal conviction has been pushed back from July 11 to September 18, clearing his way to attend the Republication National Convention next week without risk of wearing black and white stripes.

Finally, the U.S. supreme court ruled Trump has immunity for "official acts" done in office. That has the possibility of delivering a body blow to his upcoming federal criminal case.

And he’s certainly not having trouble bringing home the bacon. Filings show he outraised Biden in the just-finished second quarter by $67 million, beating him $331 million to $264 million.

A long patch of road lies between now and Election Day for Trump. But for the time being, this immediate stretch has been smooth sailing for him.     

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DEMOCRATIC VEEPSTAKES

Josh Shapiro

STOCK: RISING

Just two weeks ago, nobody was talking about the second spot on the Democratic ticket. There was no need to. Today, it’s suddenly prime political fodder.

It all hinges on what happens to Biden, of course. If he keeps his job, Kamala Harris keeps hers. If he drops out, your guess is as good as anyone’s what happens then.

As of this moment (and we must emphasize the dynamics are changing almost hourly), the smart money would be on Harris becoming the nominee. So, whom might she pick as her No. 2?

Two names getting a lot of attention just now are Kentucky governor Andy Beshear and Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro. Both are young, fresh faces. But each has liabilities. Beshear is from one of the nation’s Big Three coal-producing states (worth $2.4 billion to the commonwealth’s bottom line, along with some 3,500 jobs). Such over-reliance on a dirty energy source likely wouldn’t play well with Green Energy progressives. Shapiro is also governor of a Big Coal state - and a swing state, at that - which might bring coveted electoral college votes to the table. Yet, after barely eighteen months in office, is he really ready for prime time? Plus, being Jewish, the party’s rowdy and raucous pro-Palestinian progressives would likely have a thing or two to say about his selection.

Two other possibilities are intriguing. Maryland’s 45-year-old Afghanistan War vet/ Rhodes Scholar governor Wes Moore is getting lots of buzz. Likewise, there’s ample speculation about the possibility of history’s first all-female ticket, with Harris being joined by Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer. Talk about Girl Power! But again, would that be a bridge too far? (Whitmer did say Monday she wouldn't accept the top spot, should it become open).

There’s no way of knowing what the coming weeks may bring, of course. But as long as uncertainty swirls around Biden’s grip on the nomination, speculation about the VP slot will continue at a fever pitch.

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GOP VEEPSTAKES

STOCK: RISING

This guessing game is less intense, but by no means less fascinating. The fact of the matter is Joe Biden's fate has changed the calculus for Donald Trump’s selection as well. Just two weeks ago, speculation swirled around names that were either in the GOP’s MAGA base or at least on friendly terms with it: Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Ohio Senator JD Vance, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum or — a longshot — billionaire businessman and MAGA bomb thrower Vivek Ramaswamy.

But the uncertainty engulfing the Democratic ticket is directly impacting the Republican one. A running mate can bring balance to a ticket and counter your opponents’ strengths. Trump’s ability to parry and thrust that threat is now up in the air because he doesn’t know just who he’ll face this fall.  

Time is not on Trump’s side, either. The Republican National Convention convenes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, next week, and one of the biggest tasks ahead for him is presenting his running mate to the delegates. The calendar isn’t helping. Although Democrats have said they will conduct a first-ever “virtual rollcall” to nominate their ticket ahead of their convention—possibly within two or three weeks—it will most likely happen after the RNC has adjourned. 

With so many unknowns swirling around, there’s a subtle push by some Republicans for Trump to play it safe and select someone from the more moderate branch of the party, such as Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin. But the MAGA faithful are firmly in control of the GOP just now, and the word “moderate” holds no magic to their ears.

Also, Trump's inner circle has repeatedly made it clear moderate Republicans like Nikki Haley - who for awhile appeared to be the former president's top pick - would not fit the bill.

Which raises another question ... could Trump through the whole process for a loop and tap a key member of his inner circle, his son Donald Trump Jr., as his nominee?

We will find out ... and that right soon.

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1 comment

Nanker Phelge July 9, 2024 at 12:26 pm

A periodic reminder: aggregate polls are flooded by junk Republican polls. That is the reason there never was a “red wave.”

Funny how this blahg ignores Trump thinking he’s running against Obama, or that he’s running against “Joe Bride”, or him saying “the oranges, oranges, origins of the investigation” amongst dozens of others.

We are at the point where we have 2 cognitively impaired candidates for president. Only one is an adjuticated rapist, convicted felon, grifter (Trump University, anyone?), pathological liar, and malignant narcissist.

The guy judged more qualified is seen by many to be the guy who yells his insanity heartily versus the guy who mumbles and stumbles.

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