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During a Cabinet meeting yesterday, President Trump holds up tweets about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo watches. Photo: Leah Millis/Reuters

It might seem like improvisational madness when President Trump tells American citizens in Congress to "go back" where they came from, but those close to Trump say there's a lot of calculation behind his race-baiting.

Why it matters: It’s central to his 2020 strategy, they say. Trump's associates predict more, not less, of the race-baiting madness.

The rough calculation goes like this: 

  1. Trump knows that in 2016, he won the white vote by 20+ points. 
  2. He hopes he can crank their turnout even higher, especially among older, white evangelicals. He knows most of those voters are unlikely to ditch him, no matter how offensive his comments.
  3. He watches Fox News and knows AOC, in particular, is catnip to old, white voters, especially men. She is young, Hispanic, female and a democratic socialist — a 4-for-4 grievance magnet. Last week, AOC got nearly as much online attention as all 2020 Democrats combined.
  4. Trump believes he did better than Mitt Romney among Hispanic voters because many who came here and went through the legal process agree with his views. 
  5. Axios sat in on a focus group in Michigan where white swing voters agreed with Trump on immigration. Carlos Algara, a political scientist at UC Davis, told the N.Y. Times that a forthcoming analysis of the 2018 midterms found that even without Trump on the ballot, "white Democrats with high levels of racial resentment were likely to vote ... Republican."
  6. Facebook is often his incubator. He has spent three times more than all Democratic contenders combined on Facebook, with a mix of message-testing immigration lines to appealing to Hispanics who seem susceptible to his worldview. 
  7. So Trump calculates that (white voters + some Hispanic voters) * (tough immigration rhetoric + race-baiting language) = narrow 2020 win. 

The bottom line: Trump sees the four progressive women in The Squad as perfect foils until he gets a Democratic nominee to run against.

  • N.Y. Times: "He has told aides ... that he is pleased with the Democratic reaction to his attacks, boasting that he is 'marrying' ... Pelosi and the Democratic Party to the four congresswomen known as 'the Squad.'"
  • Then, he will try to do the same to the nominee.

Go deeper: Axios' Jim VandeHei and Dan Primack discussed the president's rationale in the Pro Rata Podcast ...

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Go deeper

Updated 43 mins ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz has become the first Team United States Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver, .86 seconds behind him.

California's largest wildfire razes homes as 88 huge blazes burn in U.S.

Firefighters on the scene as dozens of homes burn during the Dixie Fire in the Indian Falls neighborhood of unincorporated Plumas County, California, on July 24. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Flames from California's biggest wildfire were engulfing homes in the state's north overnight — one of 88 large blazes raging in the U.S.

Driving the news: The Dixie Fire, which erupted July 14 near the origin of the deadly 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County, was tearing through the community of Indian Falls, per AP.

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau will miss Olympics after testing positive for COVID

Bryson DeChambeau of the United States on the 18th tee during Day Two of the 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 16 in Sandwich, England. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the Tokyo Olympic Games, USA Golf announced late Saturday.

What's happening: "Patrick Reed will replace DeChambeau and is undergoing the requisite testing protocol" Sunday and Monday before his expected departure for Japan, per a USA Golf statement.