WASHINGTON — Anthony Scaramucci is under Donald Trump’s skin, hitting a nerve as the president frets about his re-election chances amid economic warning signs.
The former White House communications director was back on CNN Monday morning, delivering another broadside on his former boss just four days after a Trump’s stated favorite news organization, Fox News, released a poll showing him trailing the four leading Democratic presidential hopefuls — including former Vice President Joe Biden by 12 percentage points.
Scaramucci dismissed an anchor’s characterization as “crazy talk” his recent prediction Trump will drop his re-election bid by March, laying out a scenario in which the president’s approval rating dips into the low-30s.
“What he’s done on the trade situation has totally destabilized the global economy,” said the man known colloquially as “The Mooch,” referring to his tariffs on Chinese goods and war of threats with China’s Xi Jinping-led government.
“It’s hurting the entire capital market system,” he said. “The forecast for a recession now before the election is about 60 percent. … That’s a direct result of the uncertainty around the (possible China) trade deal.”
But Scaramucci wasn’t finished, alleging that the president is growing “more unstable and more erratic.” He said Republicans need to be offered a credible “off ramp.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is seeking the GOP nomination, and former South Carolina Republican Rep. and Gov. Mark Sanford has said he is considering a challenge Trump in the 2020 Republican primary. There’s also retiring Rep. Justin Amash, who has said he might consider running — but as a libertarian.
Trump’s former communications director pitched a strategy under which a Republican would skip Iowa, New Hampshire and other early primary states to focus on bigger ones with more delegates to take to the 2020 party convention in Charlotte.
“The Mooch” also blasted Trump for his behavior, telling CNN, “You can’t have the social fabric of the United States disintegrate over one man” and sending this message to his fellow-Republicans: “You have to break for your children.”
Minutes after Scaramucci’s appearance on the network’s morning show ended, Trump signaled he is concerned with his former employee’s message, tweeting that Scaramucci is an “highly unstable ‘nut job’ who was with other candidates in the primary who got shellaced (sic), and then unfortunately wheedled his way into my campaign.”
The president then turned to a rhetorical tool he often uses to try distancing himself from former allies by writing this of Scaramucci: “I barely knew him until his 11 days of gross incompetence — made a fool of himself, bad on TV. Abused staff, … … got fired.”
“He was a mental wreck. We didn’t want him around,” Trump said of “The Mooch” and his 11-day tenure running the White House comms shop. “Now Fake News puts him on like he was my buddy!”
Despite that assessment, Trump spoke glowingly of Scaramucci during his July 2017 run in the West Wing.
In public, the president has both said he expects to defeat whomever the Democratic Party nominates as his general election foe and signaled he is concerned a potentially weakened economy might spell doom for his chances.
On Sunday, he downplayed some economists’ prediction of an election-year economic dip.
“I don’t see a recession,” Trump told reporters Sunday in New Jersey as he wrapped up an 11-day vacation at a golf resort he owns there.
With his reelection bid always on his mind, the president has been busy erecting others to blame in case of a sluggish economy as he hits the campaign trail in earnest next year. Atop that list? The Federal Reserve and China’s bait-and-switch on a trade pact that Beijing torpedoed earlier this year, setting off a tariffs tit-for-tat that Trump himself last week admitted could make the Christmas season painful for American consumers.
“It would be because I have to take on China and some other countries,” Trump said Sunday of a possible recession.
He continues making the case that he is an economic wizard who has earned a second term in large part because of America’s economic strength.
“Our economy is the best in the world, by far,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Lowest unemployment ever within almost all categories. Poised for big growth after trade deals are completed.”
Should Sanford get into the 2020 party primary, his words Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” are just the kind Trump often uses to attack his foes.
At one point, Sanford replied this way when asked if Trump deserves a second term: “I would say no, because I would argue he’s taking us in the wrong direction.”
But would the former South Carolina congressman vote for a Democrat — say, Biden — over Trump in the general election? Nope.
“I am a core Republican,” Sanford said. “Everything is relative in politics.”