Donald Trump is no doubt aware of the controversy he created last night when he refused to say whether or not he would accept the outcome of the election. On the campaign trail in Ohio today, the Republican nominee responded to concerns in the most Trump-like way possible.
The GOP nominee doubled down on controversial and unprecedented claims that he may not accept the results on November 8, first made at the third and final presidential debate Wednesday.
Warning of a "major announcement," Trump led off his first public appearance since the debate with the "promise and pledge" to his supporters: "I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election -- if I win." The brief pause and defiant words that came after it immediately incited cheers from the crowd.
Here's a clip of the comments, which Trump's followers seemed to enjoy.
The GOP nominee clearly doesn't understand the nature of the controversy, adding at today's event that it's "unprecedented" to have to concede results before they're known. But no one has suggested anything of the kind. Indeed, in the first presidential debate, Trump was asked if he would accept the outcome of the election, regardless of the outcome. He said, "The answer is, if she wins, I will absolutely support her."
If he'd stuck to the exact same answer last night, there wouldn't have been an uproar. But Trump instead rolled out a new position: "I will look at it at the time.... I'll keep you in suspense. OK?"
This isn't about conceding unknown results or ruling out legal scrutiny in the event of a 2000-like scenario. It's a simple question of honoring the electoral process and respecting the outcome after voters have had their say. Trump is the first modern major-party nominee to create some doubt: he may not consider the process legitimate and he may not accept the results.
By any fair metric, Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is the most ideologically extreme House Speaker in modern American history. And yet, Donald Trump has taken deliberate steps in recent weeks to chastise the GOP leader and blame Ryan for the Republican presidential ticket's difficulties -- despite the Speaker's endorsement, which hasn't been withdrawn.
Considered at a distance, it's a bizarre set of circumstances. When John Boehner, under pressure from the far-right, was effectively forced to step down as Speaker, Ryan was hailed as the one Republican -- the only Republican -- who could credibly lead the party. When the Wisconsin congressman balked, GOP insiders begged him to take the gavel. Ryan grudgingly agreed.
Now, however, Trump has made Ryan out to be an enemy to the conservative cause; prominent far-right activists are accusing him of being involved in conspiracies against the GOP; and leading voices in Republican media have labeled Ryan a "saboteur" who needs to be replaced on Capitol Hill.
And as it turns out, this is having the intended effect. The latest YouGov/Economist poll found that 64% of Trump voters have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Speaker of the House, while only 28% have a favorable opinion. In a result that's hard to believe, the same survey found Ryan slightly more popular among Hillary Clinton's supporters than Trump's.
New results from a Bloomberg Politics poll point in a similar direction.
The poll's findings showed the extent to which Trump, with his hardline positions on immigration and trade, has triumphed among the party's supporters over Ryan, with his vision of a pluralist conservative party that focuses on cutting taxes and spending.
When asked which leader better represents their view what the Republican Party should stand for, 51 percent of likely voters who are or lean Republican picked Trump, while 33 percent picked Ryan and 15 percent said they weren't sure.
The same poll found Trump's favorability slipping among Republicans to 76% -- a poor number at this point in a national campaign -- but Ryan's support is actually "fading faster ... dropping 11 points to 50 percent since September among likely voters who are or lean Republican." read more
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* To no one's surprise, the preliminary polling following last night's debate showed viewers thought Hillary Clinton won and Donald Trump lost.
* This morning, Trump said via Twitter that Clinton had been "inappropriately given the debate questions." I have no idea what he's talking about.
* The latest national Quinnipiac poll found Clinton leading Trump by seven points, 47% to 40%, in a four-way match-up. In a head-to-head contest, Clinton's advantage in this poll was six points.
* It seems like an outlier, but the latest WMUR Granite State Poll shows Clinton cruising past Trump in New Hampshire, 48% to 33%.
* The latest Military Times/Institute for Veterans and Military Families poll was released yesterday, and found something interesting: among enlisted personnel, Donald Trump is the clear favorite, with Hillary Clinton running third behind Gary Johnson. But among officers, Clinton is in the lead, and Trump trails Johnson.
* In Wisconsin, the latest Monmouth University poll found Clinton up by seven over Trump, 47% to 40%. The same poll also showed former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) with a comfortable lead over incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R), 52% to 44%.
* As hard as this may be to believe, a statewide poll in Utah conducted by Emerson College found independent Evan McMullin leading the multi-candidate presidential field with 31%. Note, no third-party candidate has won any state in any presidential election since 1968 (George Wallace won five states in the Deep South in 1968, giving him 46 electoral votes that year).
* In Indiana, former Sen. Evan Bayh (D), trying to reclaim his old seat, may seem like the kind of centrist Dem the Chamber of Commerce would love, but the business lobby is nevertheless attacking Bayh during his comeback bid. read more
Mosul is not just Iraq's second-largest city. As Zack Beauchamp explained yesterday, it's also a key area seized by ISIS two years ago, which was immediately held out as powerful evidence of the terrorist group's potency in the region.
A lot has changed since the summer of 2014. As ISIS has been pushed backwards and its territories have shrunk, Mosul has now become "the last major Iraqi population center under ISIS control," which makes the newly launched Iraqi offensive in the city, backed by American airpower, that much more significant: an ISIS defeat in Mosul would be crushing for the network.
With this in mind, Fox's Chris Wallace asked a good question at the presidential debate last night: "If we are able to push ISIS out of Mosul and out of Iraq, would you be willing to put U.S. troops in there to prevent their return or something else?"
Hillary Clinton's answer touched on a few unrelated points, but she did answer the question: "I will not support putting American soldiers into Iraq as an occupying force. I don't think that is in our interest, and I don't think that would be smart to do. In fact, Chris, I think that would be a big red flag waving for ISIS to reconstitute itself."
Donald Trump's answer meandered in all sorts of odd directions, and he never got around to the point of the question, but he did raise a new conspiracy theory.
"But you know who the big winner in Mosul is going to be after we eventually get it? And the only reason they did it is because she's running for the office of president and they want to look tough. They want to look good. He violated the red line in the sand, and he made so many mistakes, made all the mistakes. That's why we have the great migration. But she wanted to look good for the election. So they're going in."
Clinton responded soon after, "I'm just amazed that he seems to think that the Iraqi government and our allies and everybody else launched the attack on Mosul to help me in this election, but that's how Donald thinks. You know, he always is looking for some conspiracy."
That's true. In Trump's mind, "they" -- a group he never identified -- launched a military offensive in Mosul, months in the making, led by the military of a foreign government, all because Hillary Clinton "wanted to look good for the election." read more
The right is no doubt aware of the biggest controversy from last night's debate: Donald Trump's refusal to say he'll accept the outcome of the presidential election. Some conservatives and Republican surrogates nevertheless believe they have a (ahem) trump card: Al Gore.
Except that doesn't make sense. Slate's Jamelle Bouie summarized the problem:
Surrogates for Trump have tried to defend his comments, citing then–Vice President Al Gore's conduct following the 2000 election. But Gore didn't challenge the process; he let it move forward. As ordered by state law, Florida had to do a recount. That recount was then stopped by the Supreme Court. At that point, Gore conceded the election, gracefully and without public hesitation.
Trump was explicitly asked last night if he intends to accept the results of the 2016 presidential election, and unlike every other national candidate since the Civil War, Trump wouldn't commit. Without any real appreciation for the seriousness of the situation, the GOP nominee added, "I'll keep you in suspense. OK?"
On a conceptual level, I understand the point the right is trying to make. Trump's allies are clumsily making the case that since Gore didn't end his candidacy on Election Night 2000, it means he didn't accept the results, either, which is no different from what we heard last night.
But the comparison is deeply flawed. On Election Night 2000, the race was unresolved. Gore had won the popular vote, and the outcome in Florida was so ridiculously close, an automatic recount was triggered. Gore didn't reject the democratic process, he honored it by allowing it to play out. read more
But one falsehood in particular stood out for me. Consider this exchange between Trump and Hillary Clinton last night.
CLINTON: Well, every time Donald is pushed on something which is obviously uncomfortable, like what these women are saying, he immediately goes to denying responsibility. And it's not just about women. He never apologizes or says he's sorry for anything.
So we know what he has said and what he's done to women. But he also went after a disabled reporter, mocked and mimicked him on national television....
Here's the thing: we've all seen the tape.
After the vice presidential debate two weeks ago, New York's Jon Chait argued persuasively that Mike Pence lost, not because he lied, but because he lied about the wrong kind of stuff. Summarizing a helpful rule that should live on forevermore, Chait wrote, "You should not lie about things that can be easily disproven with short video clips."
Which brings us to last night and Trump's violation of the newly inaugurated Chait Rule. read more
Americans have become so accustomed to seeing Donald Trump on their television screens that some may occasionally forget he has no idea what he's doing. The Republican presidential nominee has never sought public office, has no previous experience in debates, and in the midst of the toughest job interview anyone could ever experience, he's never even applied for a job.
The result is an amateur who makes rookie mistakes -- because he doesn't know how to avoid them.
Towards the end of last night's presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked the candidates about the Social Security and Medicare eventually running out of money, which led him to ask about the possibility of a "grand bargain" along the lines of the ones Republicans rejected in 2011. It's not an especially sexy topic, but it led to one of the evening's more memorable moments.
CLINTON: Well, Chris, I am on record as saying that we need to put more money into the Social Security Trust Fund. That's part of my commitment to raise taxes on the wealthy. My Social Security payroll contribution will go up, as will Donald's, assuming he can't figure out how to get out of it. But what we want to do is to replenish the Social Security Trust Fund...
TRUMP: Such a nasty woman.
If you missed the debate, you might think Trump interrupted with this insult in the middle of a heated back-and-forth, but that's not at all what happened. The debate was nearly over; Wallace asked about a relatively unexciting topic; and Clinton made a comment in passing that happens to be true: her opponent has made every effort to avoid paying his fair share of taxes.
Trump didn't need to say a word, and if he were inclined to react, he could have tried to say something substantive about tax policy. But his lack of preparation, discipline, and impulse control led him to blurt out the first thought came to his mind: Clinton is "such a nasty woman."
Why? Because she had the audacity to briefly note a fact Trump prefers to overlook. read more
At a certain level, Donald Trump must realize that his spirited defenses of Russian President Vladimir Putin do his campaign no favors -- but the Republican nominee just can't seem to help himself.
Earlier this week, Trump said he'd like to incorporate the Russian autocrat into his post-election presidential transition process, effectively rewarding Putin for suspected criminal efforts surrounding intervention in the American election. Last night, Trump read from the same script, pretending Russia may have had nothing to do with the recent email hacks -- ignoring his own intelligence briefings that told him the opposite -- and raving about Putin "outsmarting" U.S. leaders.
Trump also referred to the START arms agreement as "the start up," and proceeded to get every relevant detail of the policy wrong.
The result was a stunning exchange, starting with Hillary Clinton's explanation that Putin would "rather have a puppet as president of the United States."
At the very end of the first presidential debate of 2016, NBC News' Lester Holt asked the candidates whether or not they'll accept the outcome of the election, regardless of the outcome. Hillary Clinton answered first and didn't hesitate: "I support our democracy. And sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But I certainly will support the outcome of this election."
When it was the Republican's turn to answer, Donald Trump initially rambled about 800 immigrants who became U.S. citizens. Holt pressed on, asking again, "Will you accept the outcome of the election?" The GOP nominee eventually said, "The answer is, if she wins, I will absolutely support her."
Last night, in the third and final debate, Fox's Chris Wallace returned to the subject and heard a very different answer.
WALLACE: Mr. Trump, I want to ask you about one last question in this topic. You have been warning at rallies recently that this election is rigged and that Hillary Clinton is in the process of trying to steal it from you. Your running mate, Governor Pence, pledged on Sunday that he and you -- his words -- "will absolutely accept the result of this election." Today your daughter, Ivanka, said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely -- sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?
TRUMP: I will look at it at the time. I'm not looking at anything now. I'll look at it at the time.
The Republican candidate proceeded to complain about news organizations, fraudulent voter registrations, and his belief that his opponent "shouldn't be allowed to run" for president.
Wallace, to his credit, reminded Trump of some basic American norms the candidate may not be aware of: "[T]here is a tradition in this country -- in fact, one of the prides of this country -- is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying that you're necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you're not prepared now to commit to that principle?"
Trump wouldn't budge. "What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time," he replied. "I'll keep you in suspense. OK?"
Courtney Kube, NBC News national security producer, explains the military strategy behind announcing the liberation of Mosul, Iraq, and fact-checks Donald Trump's bafflement at U.S. military strategy. watch
Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, talks about the precedent for rejecting the outcome of a democratic election in the United States and how the nation's founders viewed the importance of the peaceful transfer of power. watch
Hallie Jackson asks Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence about Donald Trump's position on accepting the democratic outcome of the 2016 presidential election and gets a response different from Pence's answer to Brian Williams before the debate. watch
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