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Pence insists economy is strong, blaming media for "irresponsible rhetoric"

Voters skeptical of Trump on economy
Voters increasingly skeptical of Trump's handling of economy 04:34

Vice President Mike Pence on Monday insisted the economy is strong and blamed many in the mainstream media for their "irresponsible rhetoric" suggesting otherwise, as some economists raise alarm bells over the U.S. economic outlook. 

Pence, speaking at the Detroit Economic Club, continued the Trump administration's messaging that the economy is strong despite market volatility, and the media is to blame instead. 

"Despite the irresponsible rhetoric of many in the mainstream media, the American economy is strong, and the U.S. economic outlook remains strong as well," Pence told the group in Detroit Monday. "Now, last week, despite some volatility in global markets, leading retailers also reported strong sales and earnings, and consumer spending posted its strongest reading since March. And under President Trump's leadership, as a son of the heartland myself, I couldn't be more proud to say that the automotive industry is roaring back here in Michigan and all across the heartland." 

The Trump administration has been on defense after the stock market's wild ride last week, and as some economists warned of a potential recession, spurred in part by Mr. Trump's trade wars. The National Association for Business Economics found 38% of economists believe the U.S. will head into a recession in 2020. An additional 34% believe the U.S. will head into a recession in 2021. 

Pence, who had been scheduled to speak long before the recent market swings, told his audience that the markets would tank and there very well could be the recession naysayers are predicting — if any of the Democrats running for president win. 

Pence isn't the only White House official who has had to go out and defend the economy as the president's trade war, among other factors, worries investors. Top White House economic advisers Larry Kudlow and Peter Navarro also hit the Sunday show circuit to defend the economy's performance under Mr. Trump and insisted recession talk is overblown. 

"No, I don't see a recession," Kudlow said Sunday. "We're doing pretty darn well in my judgment. Let's not be afraid of optimism."

The president, too, has honed in on the economy, even as he veers off onto other topics like blasting his onetime White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci. Mr. Trump, who has accused the media without evidence of trying to crash the economy, tweeted Monday morning in defense of its performance to  attack one of his favorite punching bags, Fed Chair Jerome Powell. 

"Our Economy is very strong, despite the horrendous lack of vision by Jay Powell and the Fed, but the Democrats are trying to 'will' the Economy to be bad for purposes of the 2020 Election," Mr. Trump tweeted Monday morning. "Very Selfish! Our dollar is so strong that it is sadly hurting other parts of the world. .... The Fed Rate, over a fairly short period of time, should be reduced by at least 100 basis points, with perhaps some quantitative easing as well. If that happened, our Economy would be even better, and the World Economy would be greatly and quickly enhanced-good for everyone!"

The economy is widely viewed as Mr. Trump's top argument for reelection in 2020, but that could change overnight if the economy falters ahead of the election. Mr. Trump appears to be aware of how closely tied he is to the economy, telling supporters at a New Hampshire rally that's why they have to vote for him. 

"See the bottom line is, I know you like me, and this room is a love fest," Mr. Trump said a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, last week. "I know that, but you have no choice but to vote for me because your 401(k)s — down the tubes. Everything's gonna be down the tubes. So, whether you love me or hate me, you've got to vote for me."

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