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‘He’s rattled’: Trump fears looming economic collapse will lose him 2020 election

‘We’re on that steady march to inevitable recession,’ says bank’s chief economist

Emma Snaith
Saturday 17 August 2019 14:02 BST
Donald Trump boasts he could weaken US dollar ‘in two seconds if he wants to’

Donald Trump is reportedly worried an economic collapse could dent his chance of re-election in 2020 after a change in a major market indicator sparked fears of a US recession.

The US president has spoken with a number of business leaders and financial executives this week to gauge their thoughts on the market’s volatility, according to White House sources.

He has also accused the media and economists of skewing data to thwart his re-election chances.

“He’s rattled,” a Republican close to the administration told The Washington Post. “He thinks that all the people that do this economic forecasting are a bunch of establishment weenies – elites who don’t know anything about the real economy and they’re against Trump.”

The newspaper reported that White House officials were delivering “upbeat assessments of the US economy” to the US president, amid concerns that preparation for a crash would “validate a negative narrative” about the economy.

Mr Trump has reportedly spent much of the week at his New Jersey golf club, spending his mornings on the course, watching cable television in the afternoon and calling confidants and business executives for their thoughts on the economy in the evenings.

Democratic pollster Peter Hart told The Washington Post that Mr Trump is likely to see his chances of re-election slashed if the economy suffers a recession.

“This president is so polarising and off-putting to so many voters that he is dependent upon the good economic numbers to sustain his style,” Mr Hart said. “When you start to hit an economic downturn, there’s no personal element that sustains him.”

Fears of a possible economic downturn grew this week after a closely followed market indicator flipped in the US, a signal that a recession is on its way.

The indicator, technically described as a yield curve inversion, has preceded the past seven recessions in the US.

It comes amid growing uncertainty in the global economy as Mr Trump delayed imposing some further tariffs on China amid an escalating trade war. Meanwhile, recession risks are also rising in the UK and Germany.

But Mr Trump hit back at negative economic forecasts this week and instead boasted of the health of the US economy.

“The Fake News Media is doing everything they can to crash the economy because they think that will be bad for me and my re-election,” he tweeted on Thursday.

“The problem they have is that the economy is way too strong and we will soon be winning big on Trade, and everyone knows that, including China!”

At a rally in New Hampshire later that day, Mr Trump told supporters: “You have no choice but to vote for me because your 401(k) [retirement saving plan], everything is going to be down the tubes.

“Whether you love me or hate me, you’ve got to vote for me.”

Meanwhile, many economists fear the US economy is already on track for a recession.

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Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West, said: ”I think we’re heading down that road to recession – we’re on that steady march towards that inevitable conclusion.

“It’s just that drip, drip, drip of trade war anxiety that is hanging over market sentiment.”

Winning re-election during an economic downturn has proved a major obstacle to past presidents. Both Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George HW Bush in 1992 failed to win another term in office amid recessions.

Only one president since the Civil War was re-elected during a recession – William McKinley in 1900.

Additional reporting by AP

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