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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

WARREN, Mich. — Some swing voters here told us that even though they hate President Trump's behavior, they'll place more importance on the state of the economy — and their personal financial situations — when deciding how to vote in 2020.

Why it matters: This highlights the challenge for Democrats who relish the opportunity to label Trump as "lawless" or a "divider-in-chief." Every incumbent president since FDR who has avoided a recession in the lead-up to an election year was re-elected.

The small group of swing voters we spoke with last week at an Engagious/FPG focus group included 9 people who voted for Barack Obama and then Trump, and 3 who flipped from Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton.

  • While it's not a statistically significant sample like a poll, their responses show how some voters are thinking and talking about the 2020 election in crucial counties.

What they're saying: “His antics, mannerisms, and personality I could do without," said Anthony I., "but I feel like there are a lot of good things happening in the country that people don’t like to admit."

  • And there's only one thing that could make Anthony ditch Trump in 2020: "Our economy would have to really crash for me to vote against him."
  • Laura Provo, an Obama/Trump voter who is retired, said she doesn't think Trump's "professionalism is up to where it should be for a president."
  • But, she said, because of Trump "the economy is better in general for most of America." Provo added she's noticed "more manufacturing jobs opening up out there" and noted that the economy "keeps growing."

These voters really like President Trump's tariffs, mostly because they're hoping they will bring more jobs to the U.S.

  • "Tariffs are a good thing because [NAFTA] was always beneficial for other countries," said Larry S. "I mean, all this money's going out and nothing's coming back in and no one cares about the United States."
  • Kathy R. said that thanks to President Trump's tariffs, "We're able to get more car lines and truck lines back from foreign countries after he started doing that."

Reality check: U.S. manufacturing is in a recession. A growing number of businesses are citing “greater risk aversion,” largely because of the tariffs, as a reason for not making more purchases or investments.

  • Trump's policies have introduced a real risk of stoking inflation — absent for more than a decade — as retailers large and small have said the tariffs will force them to raise prices.
  • At the same time, the president's chronic hectoring of the Fed and his trade war with China have the central bank on course to lower U.S. interest rates in the midst of a growing economy with rising wages.

By the numbers: In a July poll from The Economist/YouGov, 33% of people said they think the economy is getting better overall, and 49% said they approve "somewhat" or "strongly" of President Trump's handling of the economy.

The bottom line: Some voters might be willing to overlook the chaos around Trump or his unconventional style as long as the nation's economic engine keeps humming.

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - World

Skripal poisoning suspects linked to Czech blast, as country expels 18 Russians

Combined images released by British police in 2018 of Alexander Petrov (L) and Ruslan Boshirov, who are suspected of carrying out an attack in the in the southern English city of Salisbury using Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, and also the2014 Czech depot explosion. Photo: Metropolitan Police via Getty Images

Czech police on Saturday connected two Russian men suspected of carrying out a poisoning attack in Salisbury, England, with a deadly ammunition depot explosion southeast of the capital, Prague, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Czech officials announced Saturday they're expelling 18 Russian diplomats they accuse of being involved in the blast in Vrbětice, AP notes. Czech police said later they're searching for two men carrying several passports — including two with the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

Marion County Forensic Services vehicles are parked at the site of a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Friday. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two "assault rifles" believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI told news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.

U.S. and China agree to take joint climate action

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry waves as he arrives at the Elysee Presidential Palace on March 10, 2021 in Paris. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Despite an increasingly tense relationship, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to work together to tackle global climate change, including by "raising ambition" for emissions cuts during the 2020s — a key goal of the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The joint communique released Saturday evening commits the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to work together to keep the most ambitious temperature target contained in the Paris Climate Agreement viable by potentially taking additional emissions cuts prior to 2030.

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