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Can Haley Wake Them Up in South Carolina?
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Can Haley Wake Them Up in South Carolina?

Today’s primary will reveal if voters are growing weary of the outrages of Trump and Trumpism.

Republican presidential candidate former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley prays with a supporter during a campaign event on February 23, 2024, in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Down a dozen points or so to President Bill Clinton in late October 1996, Republican nominee Bob Dole had a question for the press that assembled at a campaign event in Houston: “Where’s the outrage in America? Where’s the outrage?”

Dole, described at the time as “seething,” was at the very least mad as hell. He said the press was hiding the incumbent’s many scandals, including the revelation that the Clinton White House had been hoarding FBI files on the president’s political foes, allegedly for use in the Clintons’ notorious smear machine. 

The press, Dole said, was trying to “steal” the election for Clinton. The very fact that the Republican candidate needed to campaign in Texas 11 days before the election suggested that there wasn’t much left to steal. But Dole had a point. Clinton’s rottenness, dishonesty, and unquenchable ambition were, as they say on Wall Street, “priced in.” The suggestion that the Clintons would use the FBI to do their dirty work was hardly a shocking possibility.

Dole, a war hero who had served with distinction in Congress for 35 years, was held to a different standard. No doubt his frustration was connected to what was happening behind the scenes with his campaign and the press, but Dole might be forgiven for being frustrated by the way Clinton surfed a wave of high economic performance and low expectations for his personal conduct into a second term. The result—that Clinton’s place in history would be mostly marked by his impeachment for covering up his assignations with a 22-year-old White House intern—was perhaps predictable.

Rotten behavior long indulged leads to more rotten behavior still.

Nikki Haley faces voters in her home state of South Carolina today with a similar challenge to Dole’s 28 years ago. Donald Trump is the prohibitive favorite in the polls, despite eight years of scandal, chaos, and rottenness that would make even Bubba blush. But Trump’s bad behavior and flagrant dishonesty is very much “priced in.” 

And if Trump has even more rapacious appetites for power and ego than Clinton, it is certainly even more predictable how another Trump term would end than it was for Clinton. If a guy can try to pull off a coup and pay no political price, what limits would anyone expect on his behavior the next time around?

Haley says that whatever happens today in the state where she was once the popular two-term governor, she will fight on, feeling no need to “kiss the ring” and “no fear of Trump’s retribution.” There’s no reason not to take her at her word, especially since she’s got the money and the plan to keep going. What we will find out today, though, is if that will matter to anyone else.

Haley got 43 percent of the vote in New Hampshire. She doesn’t need to replicate that number to get a little of  “the big mo,” especially if she manages to snag a few delegates by winning one of the state’s congressional districts on her way to a statewide loss. But neither can she get blown out. 

If the latest polling is predictive and she gets 35 percent of the vote or so, it’s probably enough to limp on until Super Tuesday, but not to shake up the race. If she falls below the 30 percent threshold in her home state, she won’t have much of an argument to make to the news media or donors about why they should invest time or resources in her endeavor.

And that will very much depend on how much anti-Trump outrage remains, both among mainstream Republicans and the Democrats she is hoping will cross over to vote in the open primary in order to send a message about Trump.

Americans have become pretty numb to the many outrages of Trump and Trumpism. Today we find out if Haley has found a way to restore some of that feeling.


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STATSHOT

Biden Job Performance
Average approval: 39.0%
Average disapproval: 58.0%
Net score: –19.0 points 

Change from one week ago: ↓ 2.2 points

Change from one month ago: ↓ 0.6 points

[Average includes: Quinnipiac: 40% approve-57% disapprove; Marquette: 38% approve-62% disapprove; Monmouth: 39% approve-57% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 41% approve-54% disapprove; NBC News: 37% approve-60% disapprove]

Polling Roulette


TIME OUT: RADIO SILENCE

New York Times: “The radio tower peeking out over dense woods and poultry farms had an AM signal just strong enough to serve WJLX’s intended audience: the people in and around Jasper, Ala., who wanted to hear the Jasper Vikings’ Friday night high school football broadcasts and news of the burger specials at Alabama Stackers on 19th Street. Then, ‘The Sound of Walker County,’ as the station has long billed itself, went silent. The tower, all 190 feet of it, had vanished — its 3,500 pounds of spindly steel beams possibly sliced into pieces and dragged away earlier this month by thieves, the police said. … The [community] lifeline, broadcasting over the AM airwaves since 1957, has been severed. For Sherrie Pike, 54, that means morning commutes without WJLX’s shows and music, including a daily sermon from the Church of Christ on 6th Avenue. … ‘These rural communities across the country, I think it’s safe to say, live and die by their local radio stations,’ Sharon Tinsley said.”


GOP GETS THEIR GUY IN WISCONSIN SENATE RACE

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Madison businessman Eric Hovde made it official on Tuesday: he’s running for U.S. Senate, aiming to deny Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin a third term. … While Hovde spoke from the building’s top-floor “Sky Club,” which overlooks the state Capitol, a group of Democratic protesters stood across the street holding ‘Hovde for California’ signs. Democrats have attempted to paint Hovde as an out-of-touch millionaire attempting to buy a Senate seat in Wisconsin. … Hovde enters the race with the support of the national party. … NRSC Chair Steve Daines on Tuesday said Hovde’s ‘experience as a job creator rather than a career politician makes him a strong candidate to flip Wisconsin’s Senate seat this year.’ The announcement sets up the prospect for a high-profile race in a battleground state.”

Hogan charts course to win record number of ticket-splitters: Baltimore Sun: “In 2018, Larry Hogan prevailed by presenting a low-key brand of moderation to win critically needed, crossover Democratic votes in one of the nation’s bluest states. Now, Hogan seems poised to adopt a similar approach in his recently announced U.S. Senate campaign, decrying partisan labels and distancing himself from the state Republican Party. … Running for federal office will expose Hogan on a much broader scale to voter and media questions about such volatile issues as aid to Israel and Ukraine, gun violence, immigration and the southern border, and abortion on the national level. … Sabato’s Crystal Ball … upgraded Republicans’ prospects for the open Maryland seat after Hogan entered the campaign. It had previously been scored as ‘Safe Democratic,’ and is now rated as ‘Likely Democratic.’ … The last Republican elected to the U.S. Senate from Maryland was Charles Mathias in 1980.”

Porter scrambles to snag second general election slot from Garvey: Politico: “Rep. Katie Porter’s Senate debate strategy on Tuesday was clear from her first answer: Goad fellow Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff into a fight. By the hour-long debate’s end, she got her wish. … With two weeks to go before the March 5 primary, Porter acted like the candidate facing the highest stakes – the prospect of being boxed out of the November general election by Steve Garvey, the Republican ex-baseball phenom who has benefited handsomely from a flood of Schiff-financed ads elevating his profile among GOP voters. … Throughout the evening, Porter lobbed spitballs at Garvey, and even foes not on stage, including another middling GOP candidate and the financiers of a ‘dark shady super PAC’ running ads against her.”

Kim, Murphy spar in first debate to replace Menendez: Insider NJ: “Sunday night saw First Lady Tammy Murphy and Congressman Andy Kim, both running for the US Senate seat to displace embattled Senator Bob Menendez, participate in an online debate. … Murphy tried to characterize herself as a mover and shaker of policy, although she has never held a public office before. As a figure ‘in the room’ with her husband, Governor Phil Murphy, she linked the governor’s accomplishments, travels, and positions with her own. … Murphy criticized Kim for not supporting a Medicare For All form of universal healthcare. … Kim said that he was not convinced that the First Lady had the strong Democratic credibility required when for most of her life she was a Republican and made donations to Republican campaigns.”

BRIEFLY

Protest votes loom large in Michigan primary—Politico

Gov. Tony Evers signs new legislative maps, ending decade of GOP advantage in Wisconsin—AP

In new district, Boebert tries to dodge carpetbagger claims—Wall Street Journal

Former CNN host  John Avlon announces campaign for New York battleground—Axios

WITHIN EARSHOT: TERRANCE AND PHILLIP HARDEST HIT 

“If Canada someday ever attacked Buffalo, I’m sorry, my friends, there would be no Canada the next day.”—New York Governor Kathy Hochul promises total destruction of our neighbors to the north at an event for the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York. She later apologized for her “inappropriate analogy” of the Israel-Hamas war. 


MAILBAG

“I am just a random day-one subscriber to The Dispatch who reads probably an unhealthy volume of The Dispatch content, and happily so.  I was happy when you jumped into the skiff and I listen to you on the podcasts when you join. I look forward to your now Saturday morning newsletter. I want to comment on NewsNation though. I turned off Fox a few years back and tried NewsNation when you joined.  For a couple of years, I’ve delighted in your analysis there.  Not a perfect platform, but it was refreshing. Although I know this is The Dispatch, I don’t know how else to reach you. I’m pretty disappointed and disgusted by the Trump rally and news conference coverage he’s received on NN in the last couple days after the [New York civil] verdict.  The same bandwidth that got him elected in 2016. I’ve now switched off the channel twice in two days over this.  I don’t know if you have any influence over this editorial content, but NewsNation has lost my household as my default television resource.  I will continue my search for a television resource I can tolerate and believe.  And yes, I agree with your maxim. … Read your news, people. That’s 90 percent of my diet anyway. Keep up the great work. I will continue to read and listen to you on the pods.”—John Pease, Dublin, Ohio

You don’t sound so random, Mr. Pease! More like a conscientious consumer, one for whom I am very grateful. And I certainly hear you when it comes to televising Trump. While I don’t know which shows or particular coverage to which you’re referring, I can understand why Americans who despair at the idea of the former president returning to power would change the channel when they see him again flooding the airwaves.

But I also know that finding the line between fair coverage and obsessive coverage isn’t always so easy to do. 

While you’re right that it’s good to have the written word as one’s primary source of news and information, television does excel at some things, particularly the live coverage of breaking news. Words can convey ideas, but images, particularly video, is far better at conveying emotion and action. In the news business, we should be careful about how we use that power, especially when it comes to giving politicians the chance to manipulate our audiences.

But neither can television journalists ignore what is going on. One of the chief errors I have observed in and about the news media is the tendency to overstate our influence. While there was much journalistic malpractice in the coverage of the 2016 and 2020 campaigns, it would be arrogant for us to believe that we in the news business had such power over the electorate that our coverage decisions were determinative. The media world today is splintered into a million shards, none of which have the imagined power to win or lose an election.

How and how much to cover Donald Trump and Joe Biden will remain extremely hard questions to answer in the coming months. They are universally known figures, so there is not the same need for explanatory kinds of coverage. Americans know these men all too well. But we also have to keep track of the things they are saying or doing.

I’m sorry to have lost you at NewsNation, but grateful to keep your connection here. I wish you happy hunting.

“Just a brief note to share a bit of the joy you brought to me. After reading your newsletter, and all the disheartening political news, a knowing smile crossed my face when I saw the reference to the holy triumvirate, and their master percussionist and lyricist. Thank you so much!”—Mike Van Paemel, Dubuque, Iowa

Mr. Van Paenel, I like to think of this as a real Fly By Night kind of operation … I am not a worshipful Rush fan, but I do love their stuff, and certainly place them in the prog rock pantheon fairly close to Yes. As a child of the Upper Ohio Valley in the 1980s, Rush was the soundtrack for the cool kids, and even some hosers. Rock on!


You should email us! Write to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM with your tips, kudos, criticisms, insights, rediscovered words, wonderful names, recipes, and, always, good jokes. Please include your real name—at least first and last—and hometown. Make sure to let me know in the email if you want to keep your submission private. My colleague, the scrupulous Nate Moore, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack!


CUTLINE CONTEST: PARTING GIFTS 

President Joe Biden arrives to give remarks from the Roosevelt Room of the White House on February 16, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
President Joe Biden arrives to give remarks from the Roosevelt Room of the White House on February 16, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

I don’t know if it’s fair, but this week’s winner was the beneficiary of a funny story that I have always treasured about a long-serving, quite elderly co-worker. Bosses had tried to subtly convince the person that it might be time to pack it in and start enjoying their fully vested pension. Management could no longer justify the expense of paying the person for so little product, but couldn’t bear the idea of an undignified firing. The solution: The only surprise retirement party I have ever heard of. 

“Is this about me? I love surprise parties!”—Bill Ward, St. Augustine Beach, Florida

Winner, Knock First Division:

“Oooh, sorry Don, I didn’t know you were on the throne.”—Allan Hardcastle, Lincoln, California

Winner, Swiftian Division:

“You get all that, Kelce?”—Jack Funke, Poplar Bluff, Missouri

Winner, Full Monty Division:

“Joe Biden, you’re dealing away the Maytag washer and dryer. Let’s see what Carol Merrill has behind door No. 2!”—Chris Lee, Corvallis, Oregon

Winner, Try, Try Again Division:

“Oh! This is a good sign, it’s not full of coats.”—Dave Landry, Lynnfield, Massachusetts


NOID SOUGHT FOR QUESTIONING 

New York Post: “Maybe they just wanted to meat their neighbor? A New Jersey woman woke up Wednesday morning to find her home had been vandalized — with pepperoni. … ‘From the door to the edge of the porch and then strategically placed down the stairs, to the driveway and four slices on the hood and four slices on the trunk [of the car].’ … ‘We’re trying to figure out who goes around with two loaves of pepperoni in the middle of the night and cuts it up into slices and throws it on people’s property,’ said [homeowner] Heather Dougherty. ‘You have nothing better to do with your time?’ she wondered. … Anthony D’Aniello, owner of Manville Pizza, said that the pepperoni looks much larger than the kind pizza shops use as toppings. ‘As an Italian, it hurts the heart,’ he quipped.”

Nate Moore contributed to this report.

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, co-host of the Ink Stained Wretches podcast, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics.