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Forget populism. This is Brexit’s real impact on 2016

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke Friday during a news conference at the Turnberry Golf course in Turnberry, Scotland.Carlo Allegri/Reuters

In the hours after England voted to exit the European Union, Donald Trump argued there’s a “parallel” between “what’s happening in the United States and what’s happening here.” Hillary Clinton argued the result “underscores the need for calm, steady, experienced leadership” that she believes she can offer the country.

The actual impact of Brexit on the presidential race will be unclear for some time, but here’s one thing we know for sure: It’s still about the economy, stupid.

If the Brexit vote plunges Europe and the US into a recession, the political implications will dwarf any tea-leaf reading of how returns in Manchester, England could predict the vote this fall in Manchester, New Hampshire.


As the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 600 points Friday afternoon, former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan sounded alarm bells.

“This is the worst period, I recall, since I’ve been in public service,” Greenspan told CNBC. “There’s nothing like it, including the crisis — remember October 19th, 1987, when the Dow went down by a record amount 23 percent? That I thought was the bottom of all potential problems. This has a corrosive effect that will not go away.”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Historically, when the US economy falters, it hurts the political party in power. Just ask US Senator John McCain, who lost while his fellow Republican, President George W. Bush, served his final days in the White House as the economy plunged into a recession.

But politically it’s not clear that Democrats will carry the blame for a recession caused by actions overseas. President Obama and Clinton disagreed with England’s vote exit the EU.

For Trump, a recession could reset the campaign to focus on a single issue — the economy. His controversial comments on women, immigration, Trump University or the Orlando shooting could fade to the background. Instead, Trump would have an opportunity to talk about his business record.


Clinton will retort, as she has already, that this not the time for the US to have a leader without political experience.

In either case, a recession would dramatically change the conversation of the presidential race.

James Pindell can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell. Click here to subscribe to his daily e-mail update on the 2016 campaign.