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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Zach Gibson/Stringer, The Washington Post/Getty Contributor

Bernie Sanders is poised to become an economic scapegoat for both the White House and Corporate America, assuming that Sanders comes through Super Tuesday unscathed.

The big picture: If the U.S. economy remains strong, President Trump and CEOs will claim credit (as they've been doing for three years). If it turns sour, they'll blame Bernie (even though it's a largely baseless charge).

  • We got a sneak preview yesterday, when a Fox Business Network anchor pinned the Dow drop on Nevada caucus results, rather than on rising coronavirus infections outside of China.

Presidents receive too much credit and criticism for the economy, a popular maxim that we've seen manifested in past reelection results.

The state of play: The core validity of American capitalism wasn't at issue in those prior tilts. Bernie Sanders opens that door by virtue of his self-described democratic socialism, giving Trump a rhetorical shield unavailable to past incumbents. And the same goes for CEOs and boards, who normally bear the brunt of poor performance.

  • This isn't to say that such arguments would necessarily work, particularly given that GDP growth and corporate earnings both softened before Sanders surged.
  • Nor that they should work, as only one president at a time sets policy.
  • It's just that they may work, particularly when the only alternative for Trump and CEOs would be accepting blame.

The bottom line: Sanders, just by virtue of his ascendant existence, gives today's political and business leaders a "heads I win, tails you lose" response to whatever the economy throws at us heading into November.

Go deeper: Reality check on Bernie Sanders' biggest ideas

Go deeper

Biden to sign 15 executive actions on Day One

President-elect Joe Biden. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to sign 15 executive actions upon taking office Wednesday, immediately reversing key Trump administration policies.

Why it matters: The 15 actions — aimed at issues like climate change and immigration — mark more drastic immediate steps compared with the two day-one actions from Biden's four predecessors combined, according to incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Off the Rails

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Elijah Nouvelage, Alex Wong/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence. Trump believes the vice president can solve all his problems by simply refusing to certify the Electoral College results. It's a simple test of loyalty: Trump or the U.S. Constitution.

"The end is coming, Donald."

The male voice in the TV ad boomed through the White House residence during "Fox & Friends" commercial breaks. Over and over and over. "The end is coming, Donald. ... On Jan. 6, Mike Pence will put the nail in your political coffin."

Big Tech's post-riot reckoning

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Capitol insurrection means the anti-tech talk in Washington is more likely to lead to action, since it's ever clearer that the attack was planned, at least in part, on social media.

Why it matters: The big platforms may have hoped they'd move to D.C.'s back burner, with the Hill focused on the Biden agenda and the pandemic out of control. But now, there'll be no escaping harsh scrutiny.