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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Most business reporters didn't see the Great Recession of 2008 coming, and political media knew Hillary Clinton would win.

Why it matters: As recession signals flash once again and the 2020 election looms, they're both over-correcting — afraid of missing the world's biggest story — again.

There are legitimate reasons to expect a recession, including economic slowdowns elsewhere, that pesky yield curve and the law of gravity. But there are just as many reasons to let the good times roll a while longer:

  • These include American consumers' continued spending, as reflected in recent earnings reports from Lowe's and Target.
  • That balance got lost in favor of "RECESSION" headlines, with reporters preferring to (maybe) overstate risk than to possibly let readers (maybe) saunter off a cliff.
  • There already have been unintended consequences, possibly upsetting the economic balance. Axios' Alayna Treene reports that President Trump became obsessed with media reaction to the August stock drop, leading to him compulsively float tax cuts before changing course less than 24 hours later.
  • It also could affect consumers, with one congressional aide arguing: "Panic begets panic — and the more you talk about something, the more likely it is to happen." Indeed, consumer confidence just experienced its largest monthly drop in nearly seven years.
  • Between the lines: Reporters aren't talking about a looming recession in order to cost Trump his job, as he claimed via tweet. They're talking about it to protect their own.

There are legitimate reasons to believe Trump will be re-elected, including his base's unshakable devotion. But, in the pre-Trump era, any incumbent with his current math would be treated like a dead man walking: 

  • Imagine if any president besides Trump had a 41% approval rating, was losing to their top five opponents, and was more unpopular than popular in states they have to win again? Imagine this president trailed all of their top potential rivals in virtually all of the swing states. 
  • But the N.Y. Times' Nate Cohn reminds us: "Trump’s Electoral College Edge Could Grow in 2020." And the Cook Political Report's David Wasserman writes for NBC News: "How Trump could lose by 5 million votes and still win."
  • Trump, of course, gave all of us good reason in '16 to stop assuming we know what voters want or will do.

The bottom line: Reporters, like generals, tend to fight the last war.

Go deeper: Trump resistance media rising

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Go deeper

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/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. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.