The debates are over. Donald Trump said he won them all. The polling shows otherwise, but he is who he is. He never loses, but that’s getting harder and harder to maintain. He lost those. He’s losing the election, mainly because what he thought was bold and amazing and fresh was just nastiness, delivered with righteous anger about how everyone was out to get him. In the end, they were – because that’s all there was. Any talk about what would make things better for everyone were he president disappeared for weeks at a time. There was no way to criticize or praise his policy proposals because there finally were none. He didn’t seem concerned with that sort of thing. Hillary was crooked. The system was rigged. Voter fraud had made the whole of the American political system fraudulent. Maybe there was no point in anyone voting at all. If Hillary won, he might not concede. Why should he? American democracy was a joke – but if he won, maybe it wasn’t – maybe. And people were throwing his quotes back in his face, and ten women, so far, had finally overcome their fears of his vast legal team, that could ruin them, and documented how he had groped them at this time and in this place. They had discussed with others what had happened, at the time. The others confirmed that – so Donald Trump had to fire back, and there was no time left to be a presidential candidate. He lost the thread. He lost the election.
Everyone knew that. Philip Rucker reported this:
A wave of apprehension and anguish swept the Republican Party on Thursday, with many GOP leaders alarmed by Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the outcome of the election and concluding that it is probably too late to salvage his flailing presidential campaign.
As the Republican nominee reeled from a turbulent performance in the final debate here in Las Vegas, his party’s embattled senators and House members scrambled to protect their seats and preserve the GOP’s congressional majorities against what Republicans privately acknowledge could be a landslide victory for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
They know, and they don’t know what to do about the one fatal thing Trump said in the third debate:
With 19 days until the election, the Republican Party is in a state of historic turmoil, encapsulated by Trump’s extraordinary debate declaration that he would leave the nation in “suspense” about whether he would recognize the results from an election he has claimed will be “rigged” or even “stolen.”
The immediate responses from GOP officials were divergent and vague, with no clear strategy on how to handle Trump’s threat. The candidate was defiant and would not back away from his position, telling a roaring crowd Thursday in Ohio that he would accept the results “if I win” – and reserving his right to legally challenge the results should he fall short.
For seasoned Republicans who have watched Trump warily as a general-election candidate, the aftermath of Wednesday’s debate brought a feeling of finality.
And this didn’t help:
Top Democrats fanned out to battleground states on Thursday to hammer Trump for what they described as an unprecedented attack on the country’s political system and to attempt to yoke Trump to Republican candidates down the ballot.
Campaigning in Miami, President Obama said Trump’s doubts about the election outcome are “not a joking matter. That is dangerous.”
The president eviscerated Republicans who have stood by Trump, singling out Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who called Trump “a dangerous con artist” and condemned his more controversial comments during the GOP primaries but now plans to vote for him.
“Marco just seems to care about hanging on to his job,” Obama said, calling the senator’s positioning “the height of cynicism.”
And in Arizona, where polls show an unexpectedly tight presidential race, first lady Michelle Obama said Trump “is threatening the very idea of America itself” by suggesting he would not honor the election results.
“You do not keep American democracy ‘in suspense,’ ” Obama said in Phoenix.
Then came the he-didn’t-really-mean-it-that-way tap dancing:
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, contended that Trump and the party would stand by the results unless the margin is small enough to warrant a recount or legal challenges. Priebus said Trump is merely preserving flexibility in the event of a contested result.
“All he’s saying is, ‘Look, I’m not going to forgo my right to a recount in a close election,’ ” Priebus said. “We accept the results as long as we’re not talking about a few votes where it actually matters. I know him. I know where his head’s at. I promise you. That’s all this is.”
Other Trump surrogates took a different interpretation. Keith Kellogg, a retired Army lieutenant general, accused the media of “splitting hairs” and insisted that Trump was “not threatening democratic norms,” while former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani argued that any Republican would be “stupid” to accept the integrity of results before they are known.
“Suppose she wins Pennsylvania by 50 votes,” Giuliani said. He speculated, without evidence, that Democrats would “steal a lot more than 50 votes in Philadelphia. I guarantee you of that. And I’ll tell you how they will do it – they’ll bus people in who will vote dead people’s names four, five, six times… or have people in Philadelphia paid to vote three, four and five times.”
Giuliani was making up wild stories of what “might” happen, even if such things just don’t happen and have never happened. Priebus was saying that Trump didn’t say what Trump actually said. This was over. There was a much easier explanation of Trump’s defiance:
“He is just trying to find an excuse for the fact that he’s going to lose, and perhaps the fact that he’s going to lose to the first woman president stings a little sharper than it might otherwise,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton campaign’s communications director.
Many Republicans agreed:
Prominent Republican senators in tough reelection bids distanced themselves from Trump’s posture. “Donald Trump needs to accept the outcome,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said in a statement.
John McCain (Ariz.), who lost to Obama eight years ago, said in a statement: “I didn’t like the outcome of the 2008 election. But I had a duty to concede. A concession isn’t just an act of graciousness. It is an act of respect for the will of the American people.”
As of Thursday afternoon, neither House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had offered any comment, underscoring the party’s unease with its own nominee and the political dangers of tangling with him.
Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a lawyer at Jones Day who has been national counsel for several Republican presidential campaigns, said Trump’s stance puts the party in “quite a difficult position.”
“There will be Republican candidates who are winning by narrow margins and losing by narrow margins,” Ginsberg said. “The party as a whole has a collective interest in having the results upheld.”
That’s not what Trump thinks:
Even as his party loses faith, Trump proclaimed that he was poised for victory.
“Bottom line, we’re going to win,” he told the boisterous Ohio crowd. “We’re going to win. We’re going to win so big. We’re going to win so big.”
And Dorothy, in her ruby slippers, clicks her heels together. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.
There’s no fixing this. The Republican candidate is a walking disaster. He makes a mess of even the simplest stuff:
Donald Trump was booed Thursday night at the annual Alfred E. Smith Dinner after delivering a series of jabs at his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, including trying to riff on a controversial remark he made at the latest presidential debate about her being a “nasty woman.” …
The dinner – a white-tie fundraiser put on by the Catholic Church, in honor of former New York governor (and first Catholic governor of the state) Al Smith – is a longstanding tradition for presidential candidates.
This is light-hearted goofing around. No one has ever been booed before, but he managed it:
Trump, who spoke first, tried at first to keep things light-hearted, but quickly turned to harsh criticism about Clinton, who he described as “corrupt.” His remarks drew boos from the crowd, unprecedented for the event in the memories of observers.
“Hillary believes it’s vital to deceive the people by having one public policy. And a totally different policy in private. That’s okay,” he said, to boos from the crowd. “I don’t know who they’re angry at, Hillary, you or I? For example, here she is tonight in public pretending the not to hate Catholics.”
“Now, if some of you haven’t noticed, Hillary isn’t laughing as much as the rest of us. That’s because she knows the jokes and all of the jokes were given to her in advance of the dinner by Donna Brazile,” he added.
You’re not supposed to be nasty on this one special night, but he couldn’t help himself:
Trump also joked about the presidential debate Wednesday night where he called Clinton a “nasty woman” – a comment that drew harsh criticism.
“Last night, I called Hillary ‘A nasty woman.’ But this stuff is all relative,” he said. “After listening to Hillary rattle on and on and on, I don’t think so badly of Rosie O’Donnell anymore. In fact I’m actually starting to like Rosie a lot.”
The room went silent. This was embarrassing, so Clinton showed how these things are done:
During Clinton’s remarks, the Democratic nominee made some self-deprecating jokes about her stamina and paid speeches, before turning her attention to Trump, where she jabbed him on everything from his temperament to his ties to Russia.
“Donald really is as healthy as a horse. You know, the one Vladimir Putin rides around on,” she quipped.
Referring to the presidential debates, she joked that she has now stood next to Trump “longer than any of his campaign managers” and commented about his suggestion she should be drug tested.
“Donald wanted me drug tested before last night’s debate,” she said. “And look, I got to tell you, I am so flattered that Donald thought I used some sort of performance enhancer.”
“Now, actually, I did. It’s called preparation,” she added.
That’s how it’s done. Keep it light, but everyone knows who this guy is:
As Al Smith IV – the great-grandson of the late Al Smith – introduced the candidates, his playful banter took aim at both of them.
“They have just returned from their third debate and I think they are both grateful for format in which nobody can interrupt anybody else,” Smith said, to laughter.
But Smith appeared to save his harshest jabs for the Republican nominee.
“Donald, even though there’s a man sitting next to you in a robe, you’re not in a locker room,” Smith said, referring to the “Access Hollywood” video of Trump bragging about being able to grope women, which the candidate dismissed as “locker room talk.” “So please watch your language,” Smith added.
Trump really should do that:
In one corner, we had “bad hombres.” In the other, “nasty woman.”
The phrases were both uttered by Donald J. Trump during the third and final debate against Hillary Clinton on Wednesday night in Las Vegas, in the bitter race for the White House.
And the internet pounced, adding them to its meme factory and its profiteering assembly line, even as the terms drew mocking comments and disgust from social media users.
Within hours, dozens of sellers on Etsy had whipped up merchandise – T-shirts and buttons – bearing both slogans. The comedian Chelsea Handler tossed out a poll to Twitter users: “Are you a bad hombre or a nasty woman?” After about 12 hours, “nasty woman” was winning with 60 percent of the vote…
Someone created a blunt domain name that declares “nasty women” get stuff done, and redirected it to hillaryclinton.com.
Merriam Webster said “hombre” and “nasty” both topped its list of the most-searched words during the debate…
Trump was already in trouble with women voters. Sixty to seventy percent of them say they’d never vote for him, and women make up, usually, fifty-three percent of all voters. Now women across America are walking around in Nasty Woman t-shirts. The implicit message isn’t subtle – “I’m a nasty woman. What are you going to do about it, Donald?”
Then add this:
Even Paul LePage, the controversial governor of Maine who has drawn comparisons to Donald Trump for his loud rhetoric and habit of disparaging the press, is harping on the Republican nominee for his refusal to commit to conceding if he loses the November election.
“Not accepting the results, I think, is just a stupid comment,” LePage said on a Maine radio station on Thursday, responding to Trump’s comments at the third presidential debate. “I mean, c’mon. Get over yourself.”
LePage, a Republican, told the radio station he didn’t watch the debate, which took place in Las Vegas on Wednesday night. But asked about it, he still called Trump’s decision not to promise to accept the election results “an absolute stupid move, period.”
Then add this:
Jim Murphy, Donald Trump’s national political director, is no longer playing an active role on the campaign, according to three sources briefed on the move – a troubling development for the Republican nominee coming just 19 days before the election.
“I have not resigned but for personal reasons have had to take a step back from the campaign,” Murphy said in a statement to POLITICO. He did not elaborate on the reasons for his departure.
Several Trump aides said that Murphy has been conspicuously absent in recent days as the campaign mobilizes for the final push.
Since joining the Trump campaign in June, Murphy, a longtime party operative, has played a key role in setting up field programs in battleground states. He has emerged as a central point person between top Trump campaign officials and the Republican National Committee. Murphy also helped to oversee floor operations at the Republican National Convention in July.
This is not good:
The move comes at an inopportune time for the campaign, with little more than two weeks remaining until Election Day and Trump cratering in opinion polls. There are widespread concerns in Republican circles that Trump’s swing state infrastructure lags far behind Hillary Clinton’s – something that could have implications for the party up and down the ballot.
But it had to happen:
Murphy is a close ally of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, having worked together on Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign. Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign in August.
Trump then hired the white-nationalist Breitbart conspiracy crew to run things. Murphy suddenly became an outsider. This really is over.
That may be so, but the damage is done, as Alexander Burns explains:
It is a scene reminiscent of other countries and other times: An angry candidate defies the will of the voters and hurls venom at the democratic process. Threats of jail are issued against political opponents. There is even loose talk of armed insurrection.
With his assault on the legitimacy of the presidential election, Donald J. Trump threatens to touch off a humiliating spectacle unseen in the United States since the country became a global power.
Diplomats and elected officials in both parties fear that Mr. Trump, if he loses, will inflict grave trauma on the electorate and severely undermine the international reputation of an American political system known for revering the peaceful transfer of power.
Though he trails Hillary Clinton by a wide margin in most polls and has been abandoned by much of his own party, Mr. Trump still commands a powerful bully pulpit that he may use to amplify his unsupported claims that American democracy is a fraudulent system.
That’s the damage:
Nicholas Burns, a former undersecretary of state under George W. Bush, said Mr. Trump’s refusal to say he would respect the outcome of the presidential race was a “colossal mistake” that could damage American prestige abroad.
“What many if not most foreigners admire about us, about the United States, is the durability of our democracy and the fact that we alternate power,” Mr. Burns said. “It’s how we are fundamentally different from Russia and China, and it gives us an enormous advantage.”
Mr. Burns, who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton for president, called Mr. Trump’s remarks a flagrant violation of American democratic traditions. “I don’t think we’ve had a serious national leader say that since the Confederate leaders of 1860 who refused to accept the election of Lincoln,” he said.
Yes, we’ve been here before:
William M. Daley, a former White House chief of staff who was the chairman of Al Gore’s campaign during the 2000 standoff in Florida, said Mr. Trump seemed indifferent to the possibility that his words might weaken trust in the American government, at home and overseas.
Mr. Daley said the Gore team had been cautious not to say anything during the Florida recount that might cripple the next president’s legitimacy, to the point that other Democrats criticized them for being overly cautious. Mr. Trump, he said, was taking the opposite approach.
“He really has no appreciation for our history, which most of the world looks at with great admiration, as opposed to some banana republic,” Mr. Daley said. On election night, Mr. Daley said, “he could be tweeting at three in the morning and trying to undercut the new administration coming in.”
He will be tweeting at three in the morning, and then the real damage begins, because none of this makes sense:
It is unclear whether Mr. Trump has a concrete plan to contest the results of the election if he loses. There is no law that forces a losing candidate to concede defeat – only a bipartisan tradition of comity. But fighting the apparent outcome of a presidential race could require elaborate litigation across numerous states, with virtually no hope of success without hard evidence of extensive fraud.
Mr. Trump has presented no such evidence, instead offering sweeping denunciations of the overall political process, the news media and the judicial system. His language has seemed to conjure images from the developing world and unsteady new democracies – countries like Myanmar and Nigeria, where governments have overturned election results by fiat, and political turbulence has given rise to outbreaks of violence.
We may not want to go there:
In American electoral history, there is only one instance of the losing side in an election simply declining to abide by the outcome, without any substantive legal objection or mathematical uncertainty around the results. That was in 1860, when Abraham Lincoln’s election prompted the secession of Southern states that refused to tolerate his opposition to slavery.
Despite the heated passions of Mr. Trump’s political following, he appears unlikely to steer the country into civil war. Still, he has unnerved many American political leaders through what they view as his sheer recklessness.
Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a prominent Republican election lawyer who represented Mr. Bush against Mr. Gore in their 2000 impasse, said Mr. Trump was taking the country into unknown territory.
“When people see a close election and exert their rights to the fullest is what we have always considered within bounds,” Mr. Ginsberg said. “But saying somehow that our elections are not going to be accurate and do not adequately convey the will of the majority is different from what we have ever seen before.”
And the world is watching:
Mr. Trump’s campaign has long attracted unusual interest, and in some cases extraordinary alarm, in foreign countries. Several foreign leaders have intervened in the American election to attack his candidacy in strikingly blunt terms; Manuel Valls, the prime minister of France, declared flatly this month that his country supported Mrs. Clinton.
Mr. Trump has also been endorsed by an array of hard-right leaders across Europe, and he has campaigned alongside Nigel Farage, the nationalist politician who led the charge for Britain to leave the European Union.
Mr. Trump’s attack on the American electoral system quickly stirred reaction from activists preoccupied with matters of international democracy and freedom. On Facebook, Shen Tong, a former leader of the Chinese pro-democracy movement who organized protests in Tiananmen Square, wrote that Mr. Trump’s comments had been jarring for anyone who expected an easy “national election and peaceful transition of power in the USA every four years.”
Mr. Trump’s “suspense on his acceptance of the election result reminds me how unique this constitutional democracy has been,” Mr. Shen wrote, “and how much we’ve taken it for granted.”
And we may be throwing it away. Everyone knows that Trump is going to lose. But there’s no fixing this. Now we know what really just happened. We lost too.