BOSTON (CBS) – Remember “It’s the economy, stupid,” the famous James Carville mantra behind Bill Clinton’s 1992 upset of President George H.W. Bush?

That reminder of how central the nation’s economic health is to an incumbent’s re-election may soon be a part of Trump campaign nightmares.

The enduring economic strength of the past few years is the foundation of the president’s re-election strategy. But a rash of ominous economic news beyond the usual stock market fluctuations – highlighted by today’s 801-point stock market plunge – has put that game plan in jeopardy.

Wednesday morning, Wall Street saw a rare drop in long-term government bond yields that often signals an oncoming recession.

And after months of warnings from farmers and others about damage to the U.S. economy from the Trump tariff war with China, the president blinked this week, delaying a new round of tariffs on consumer goods for months.

“There’s a lot of financial strain,” noted Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union. “Farmers are not arguing that we shouldn’t hold China accountable; they’re saying let’s have a plan and get the rest of the world united with us.”

Meanwhile, Wall Street economists are downgrading their forecasts and raising the odds of an imminent recession, adding to the economic uncertainty fueled by political turmoil in Asia, India and Europe.

“I’ve always been optimistic,” said the president, and the most recent polls show approval of his handling of the economy holding steady in the low 50s, one of the few areas where he’s not underwater.

It’s an edge he can ill afford to lose. And while his walk back on the new tariffs shows he gets that, has the damage already been done?

Jon Keller

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